Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Ornaments From Nut Shells and Thistle Pods

Acorn caps, dried thistle pods and sweet gum balls collected
on a family walk through the woods. Note. I left the acorns
for the squirrels and only took the caps. I waited a few weeks
before harvesting the dried thistle so that the birds would
remove the seeds on their own. The thistle above has been
picked clean of it's edible contents.
       Crafting with nuts, seeds and shells is not only fun for your little ones but it is also very inexpensive. You can take advantage of your local markets in order to stock your craft supply, if you don't have the time or climate to hunt from mother nature's ample supply yourself. I often purchase bags of various nuts, beans and seeds prior to the long Winter months. For every December, I'm sure to be stuck inside with students because of school cancellations, icy roads and extreme cold temperatures and if I have left over material, the local wildlife is happy to feast on the left overs!
       Alternatively, you may prefer to collect a supply of these materials during autumn walks in parks. Young children can collect acorns and acorn caps, dried thistle, seed pods etc... from the fields or paths through the woods. Use these family walks as opportunities to talk about the animals and birds that eat the seeds from the pods and how these are an important food source for them to store for winter. Then collect a few for the family to work with in their Christmas crafts at home. 
       Seed craft can be made to look quite sophisticated, so you need not worry about your older kids becoming bored with this craft material. Enlist them in the discussions about bird habitats so that they become the teachers of their younger siblings. Make this kind of outing an annual event, a family time that they can look forward to every year and that they can repeat with their own children someday.
       Seed shells in particular have one other characteristic that make them an excellent craft material, they are very light weight. Tiny ornaments made from them may be hung on the most delicate branches of a table top tree. So they are ideal for hanging on the branches of a Cypress tree, the antique tips of a German feather tree or even on a collection of pussy willow intended for the Spring celebration of Easter/Lent.
       I will include a series of nut and seed ornaments on both of my holiday blogs this year so that those of you who have too much free time this winter, will find ample ideas for the manipulation of this annual Fall harvest!
       Below is a listing of basic supplies that crafters will need in order to complete the nut shell/pod ornaments I will be posting this winter of 2018:
  1. For adults and children 5th grade and up - a small set of hand tools: pliers, scissors, razor blades, tweezers, tiny clippers etc...
  2. Old fishing and tackle box - plastic for storing tools apart from younger children
  3. tacky, sticky school glue - Although this takes longer to dry, it is by far a superior glue to hot glue! Hot glue looks bad and it is not as permanent.
  4. box of wooden tooth picks and a small bag of wooden skewers
  5. wax or baker's parchment to protect surfaces while you work
  6. empty egg cartons for sticking elements into to dry
  7. fast drying acrylic paints, all colors
  8. acrylic varnish (spray, for finishing projects)
  9. Zip lock freezer bags for storing nuts, seeds, shells in a cold garage or back porch - Remember that these pods and nuts are attractive to insects and mice; keep them in cold storage until they are used and toss out the edible nut parts into the woods.
  10. You will need a tin container for storing your final pieces: cookie tins, old popcorn containers etc... (These containers are ideal for keeping your ornaments free from moisture, insects, and mice. I have kept fragile ornaments given to me that are more than thirty years old, in mint condition inside of tins!)   
Who benefits from nutty plants? Review these articles before taking your next family walk in the woods.

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