Autumn is very late this year – the trees are just starting their annual decorating. I remember gazing out at this tree when I was in grade eight, as my desk was close to the window. While the teacher would be droning on about some uninteresting subject, I would be rejoicing in the glorious fall colors. We used to play soccer in the field after school, kicking the ball around under a canopy of orange and gold. It is still standing, although the other trees are gone, made way for a parking lot. I still get the pleasure of looking at it when I walk, I think of it as my tree, even though we are both a bit the worse for wear after forty plus years.
Chestnut trees are also a fall favorite of mine. My grandmother’s farm had chestnut trees in one of the fields and every Thanksgiving (Canadian, so mid-October), my little brother and I, brave but ready to run at the first sign of a big dumb cow, would gather them up and then use them to build fields for his barn set – what fun we had lining them up as fences for his toy animals. As a young girl who was horse-crazy, their glossy finish always reminded me of a chestnut mare or the sleek racehorses we would see at the fall fair. We have two giant chestnut trees in front of our library so when you go inside to pick up your books, you’d better beware lest you be boinked on the head by a falling chestnut. Last year one of the librarians displayed a chestnut wreath she had made on the checkout desk. She emailed me the instructions, but I was too late, so this year I was prepared and gathered up several baskets after the first windstorm.
First I shellacked them with a coat of acrylic varnish to maintain the shine, as they will dry out quickly. I raided my mothers art cupboard and used a spray can, which was quick and easy but you might get a more even application by painting it on. I did this a few days ahead of time to let it dry.
Next I took a ten inch straw wreath, (but any size would do, I started small to experiment, but hers was quite large and impressive), and wrapped it tightly with some nice decorating tape. Make sure any loose ends are secured with straight pins, as you don’t want it unraveling after the glue is on.
Then using the trusty old glue gun, attach the chestnuts in any pattern you wish. I must admit my first attempt was not perfect, as I have too much spacing between some of them. When collecting it is better to find chestnuts of different sizes and some with flat bottoms for odd spaces. The librarian had filled in the holes in between with Spanish moss, but after googling I found others have used small acorns to fill up the spaces. I prefer mine having the pretty decorating tape showing through.
It could be hung up with wire, but is fairly heavy so a table wreath with a candle in the middle is a nice option. I decided to place mine on a wicker tray and added some bows in the corner and some fairy lights.
You could use this for a centerpiece for American Thanksgiving, and then swap out the bows for something Christmasy. These are not the kinds of chestnuts you roast on an open fire however, as these are horse chestnuts, which are toxic to humans and animals. (The difference is in the shells, smoother vs spikier and the point).
Total cost – around $10 – $4 for the straw wreath, $4 for the ribbon (with Michael’s coupon), glue sticks, chestnuts free for the taking. All told it took me less than two hours to make, so this would be a nice idea for hosting a tea/craft afternoon.
Since the weather is cooler now and more conductive to baking, I made Date Nut Loaf, using the recipe from my farm cooking bible.
This is a quick and nutritious tea bread – buy the bite sized dates to save time.
If you are interested in more fall decorating on the cheap, check out last years (unpublished) blog, Autumn Decor, for some dollar store finds.
Book of the Day:
For more decorating ideas and recipes, see the Susan Branch book – Autumn from the Heart of the Home (published in 2004), for typical New England (Martha’s Vineyard) fare, or check out her website and sign up for her free monthly newsletters….they are always a cheerful read.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As a big fan of anything Susan Branch, this book one of my favorites. I re-read it every year to get in the mood for the season, for the inspiration, the decorating tips and the yummy recipes. Let the leaves fall….it’s time to get cozy.