17 April 2011

A Living Wreath for Spring

We made a new wreath for our door for the Spring season. It practically made itself. We went to visit my parents who'd just returned from a trip to Florida and brought us back some Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) and Ball Moss. (Tillandsia recurvata) I'd wanted to make a wreath and asked my Mum if she could give me any tips on making the base with grape vine. It just so happened that she had one she'd made and was about to toss, so I got that instead. My Husband's Mum gave us a couple boxes of miscellaneous crafting supplies, and inside one we found tiny birds and bird houses, and we went from there.

  Kaia and I covered the wreath base on one side with Spanish Moss, and cut 6 lengths of floral wire to secure it with.

Evenly spaced out on the wreath, I wrapped the floral wire around the front and twisted it tight in back to tack the moss to the wreath. Roughing up the moss a bit was enough to obscure the wire in front. I selected a few pieces of the ball moss and wrapped and twisted floral wire very loosely around their roots, just enough for them to sit in, but not pinch. Then I ran the ends of the wire through the wreath and twisted them in place around the vines.

 I dunked the little wooden birdhouse in water and Kaia painted it with watercolours.

 I love it! Since we will have to spray this wreath with water to keep it alive, I sealed her birdhouse with Mod Podge.The little birds were white plastic, I gave them a coat of Mod Podge as well and we covered them with blue glitter. When they'd dried, I put another coat of Mod Podge over the glitter.

Ideally, teeny, tiny eye screws would be best for hanging these things with. Not having any teeny tiny eye screws on hand, I decided to use nails. I put the smallest nail I had in the roof of the birdhouse, but I didn't have any nails teeny tiny enough for the bird. Instead, I used the wire clippers to trim down a pin to pretend to be a nail that wished it was an eye screw and carefully tapped it into the bird. I used hot glue to attach the second bird to the roof of the birdhouse, and tied thread to the nails to hang them with. I did also put a little dob of hot glue inside the birdhouse entrance hole and pushed in some little broken twigs to make it look nesty.

I threaded them onto an embroidery needle and used that to push through the vines of the wreath and tie in place.

Right now the wreath needs to be sprayed with water every couple days, which Kaia loves to do. Come summer, though, it will be humid enough here for the moss on its own.

I am in love with how the watercolours came out on the birdhouse! I am definitely getting some more - bigger - houses to have Kaia paint for us to hang outside.

05 April 2011

Visit to a Sugar Shack

We have a friend that lives at the historical Van Raalte Farm and works for the Degraaf Nature Center. The property is home to many Sugar Maple trees and houses a sugar shack. We got to check it all out! Kaia is a maple sugar lover and was really excited to find out how it was made.
It was beautiful out, possibly the warmest day we've had yet this year. Joyful in her coatlessness, Kaia ran down the woods trail and stared into the pails collecting sap. The sudden warmth meant that the sap was practically pouring out, (Okay, it was dripping pretty fast,) and Kaia let it drip onto her finger and tasted the sap straight from the tapped tree.
She visited the largest Sugar Maple on the farm and stared up into its branches in amazement.
We went to see the sugar shack, where sap was on the boil.
Up the stairs near the roof, our friend showed Kaia the big collection tank full of sap where all the pails are emptied.
Inside, the sap was boiling away, turning brown and starting to look like maple syrup, mmmmm! Steamed poured up to the roof and out into the pale blue sky.
Kaia was treated to a maple sugar candy, which disappeared very fast!
Afterward, we walked through the woods, enjoying the warming weather, the green shoots beginning to find their way to the surface, sunshine on our faces, and generally poking about.
Kaia checked to see if the water was warm yet, but decided she had better wait to go swimming and instead spent her time tossing in sand and sticks to watch being whisked away.
Oh, Spring, won't you come on a bit faster?

02 April 2011

Let's Make a Basket

We have this great big grass - Vertigo (Pennisetum Purpureum) - that we tried to keep inside over the Winter. Well, some portion of it may or may not still be alive. I'm really not sure. I just keep watering it. Much of the grass, though, dried out and has been falling off. Being constantly harassed by toddler, baby, and cats certainly hasn't helped the thing. Tired of continually picking up blades of grass before said baby could eat them and cleaning them up after said cats did eat them, I ran my hands through the plant and pulled out all the grass that fell out. I ended up with this huge pile of beautifully coloured dried grass, shades up green, blue, purples and creams, I had to do something with it.
I thought I'd try making a basket. I attempted to look up directions, and either there is an amazing lack up basket making tutorials on the internet, or I am just so ignorant that I don't even know how to look them up. Perhaps rational people get to this point and decide to make something else, but I have never claimed to fit into this category, so instead I winged it. 

This is how I made my basket. Be warned, I am definitely not telling you that this is the correct way to make a basket. It is just how I made mine. I am far more familiar with clay, so after giving up on figuring out how one ought to make a basket, I decided to make a really long coil. I started by diving the grass into relatively equal bundles, tied a piece of twine around the thick end of one, and wrapped it around and around in hopes that the grass would quit being everywhere and crazy. And with any luck I would stop being attacked by cats. (I didn't have that much luck.)
 When the bundle started to get narrower I split the ends and inserted the thick end of the next bundle and kept wrapping. Kaia helped hold them together while I wrapped.
 We kept going until we ran out of grass and I tied the end.
I filled a bowl with water and submerged the grass for a handful of seconds to make it more pliable.
Then I tied another piece of twine around the thick end and threaded it through a large embroidery needle. I started coiling the bundle of grass, passing the needle back and forth through the bundle to bind the coils together.
 After I had a spiral large enough to form the bottom of the basket, I started sewing the coils on top of one another instead of next to each other. When I needed more twine I just tied a new piece on and pulled the knot inside the bundle.
 When I got to the tail at the end I laid it across the top and started looping the stitches over and around the tail, passing the needle through the coil underneath.
When I was all done I set it in the sun to dry. Okay, it's not going to be winning any basket beauty contests, and it's a bit wobbly looking, but it's pretty sturdy and I think it is identifiably a basket, so I'll count it as a win. ;)