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North Hills Monthly

Garden Reminders Make Great Crafts

Oct 31, 2014 12:57PM ● By Denise Schreiber
“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.”
— William Blake

As we long for the warm, sunny days of summer and early fall, we always wish that there was a way to extend the growing season. Well, unless you move to a warmer climate, that’s not going to happen. But you can have reminders to keep you going until next spring.

Harvest what Mother Nature has left us. The awns (flowers) of ornamental grasses are great for floral decoration or making wreaths. Cut the awns before they open completely. Leave a 20-inch stem if you’re using it for a floral arrangement, so you can cut it to whatever length you need. If you’re using it for a wreath, cut it to 10 or 12 inches. Take a cardboard box and place it upside down, punching holes in it in a checkerboard fashion. Place the stems in the holes, making sure that they don’t touch. It will only take a day or two for them to open completely. As soon as they open, spray them with an acrylic sealer available at craft stores in the paint department or you can use an aerosol extra hold hairspray. Do this in a well-ventilated area. This helps to ‘glue’ the seed heads to the stem. They will dry quickly, within an hour or so.

While you are at the craft store, purchase a small, 12- to 14-inch straw wreath, a wreath hanger and a package of floral pins. Push the wreath hanger into the back of the form, then flip the wreath over and start to lay the seed heads on their sides, pinning them down on the wreath form just where the seed head begins. Layer them so you don’t see the straw. Continue to circle the wreath completely. When done, spray it once again, let it dry and hang!

If you still have some herbs in the gardens such as thyme, lavender and rosemary, make small wreaths out of them, and use them either as edible wreaths or to scent a room. They work best in kitchens or bathrooms where moisture brings out the fragrance of the herbs. You can also pluck the dried herbs as needed to add to soups and other dishes!

Walking in the woods, you’ll find a treasure trove of items for the home. Collect colorful fallen leaves and soak them in a preservative of 50 percent hot water and 50 percent food grade glycerin, which is available at craft stores. Make sure to keep this mixture away from children and pets! Let the mixture cool before adding the leaves, and let them soak for a couple of days before taking them out and patting them dry. You can use these for decorations and floral arrangements.

You may also find different shelf fungus (mushroom-like growths on trees) in the woods. Cut them off, clean them up and push a wooden skewer about 1/3 to 1/2 through the fungus. Place it in a jar upright and let it dry. As it dries, it will shrink around the skewer and you will be able to use it in arrangements as well.

You can have a lot of fun making a ‘hunter’ wreath for that special someone. Turkey and other bird feathers are pretty common, but you can also purchase them at a craft store. Combine feathers with the leaves and fungus and hot glue them on to a grapevine wreath that you can cut yourself or purchase. A bonus find is a piece of deer antler that you can make the focal point.

Do your trees a favor and if you see a vine with orange berries, cut what you can and add it to the hunter wreath. That plant is Oriental Bittersweet, an invasive vine that chokes out trees.

You can also make applesauce to remind you of this year’s harvest. It is really easy to preserve and everyone likes applesauce!

6 lbs. apples (mixed cooking apples for best flavor)
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar (you can use more or less to taste)
1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice

Put lemon juice and water in an 8-quart saucepan. Peel and core the apples; slice them into the saucepan with the water and lemon. Heat over medium high heat until apples are softened, stirring constantly. Turn the heat low and mash apples to the desired consistency for chunky applesauce. Bring this mixture to a boil over medium heat and stir in the sugar (and spice if you are using it). Boil for a few more minutes and immediately fill hot pint jars, leaving 1/2” headspace. Run non-metallic utensil inside of jar to removed trapped air and wipe top. Immediately place hot lid and ring on jar. Process in boiling water canner for 20 minutes.