A Chestnut Wreath

fall tree

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. 

chestnuts

 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.  

acrylic finish

straw wreath

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. 

wreath supplies

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.   

chestnut wreath

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.  

chestnut wreath

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). 

horse chestnuts

horse chestnuts

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. 

date nut loaf

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.  

Autumn from the Heart of the HomeAutumn from the Heart of the Home by Susan Branch

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.

 

11 thoughts on “A Chestnut Wreath

  1. Dave says:

    We had a (horse) chestnut tree in the middle of the front lawn of the west-side Los Angeles house I grew up in. The tree was a novelty, as I don’t think there were many of its kind in LA; and of course, you couldn’t eat the chestnuts. What a beautiful tree, though. We could climb the trunk to the point where it branched out, and we collected the beautiful nuts just for show. Thanks for bringing back a fond memory.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. rhc55 says:

    What a lovely idea, I’ve never heard of it before. Our conker season is just about over so I don’t think I’d find enough now to make one. I collect quite a few conkers each year – or, rather, I send my husband down the main road to get them for me as he is bigger than I am and can put up more of a fight for them should he encounter any small children collecting them to play ‘conkers’* – but I place them along my window sills. Many years ago I heard that this deters spiders from entering the house through open windows as they are put off by the scent the conkers put out. Whether this is true or not I cannot say, but I maintain to my incredulous husband (who nevertheless humours me by gathering them) that we have had fewer spiders ever since I started doing this. I am certainly not alone over here – many people have commented on seeing the conkers alongside my photo frames and say they do the same. Is that also a Canadian custom?
    * ‘Conkers’ is an ancient British tradition – essentially a children’s school playground game where you put a hole through the conker with something sharp like a cooking skewer or screwdriver, then thread a long piece of string or an old shoelace through and tie a knot in the end. The exciting aim of the game is to destroy your opponent’s conker by hitting it with yours, each player taking it in turns to strike their opponent’s conker. It is a very long time since I have played, but I understand there is a national, if not international, competition (for adults…) with strict rules about what you can and cannot do to the conker to strengthen it. I seem to remember my brother trying all sorts of things such as soaking them overnight in vinegar…

    Liked by 2 people

    • thehomeplaceweb says:

      No I have never heard of the game conkers, although one of my other British readers (The Britchy One) called them that name. I had never heard of the wreaths either, until I saw the librarians last year, but it was super easy to make (I don’t do many crafts), so you can be prepared for next year. I actually have never tasted a roasted chestnut (the kind you can eat), although I remember seeing the outdoor carts selling them in downtown Toronto. I have used peppermint spray outside door frames and such to ward off spiders, but I’m not sure it works. Just put some peppermint oil drops in a spray bottle – apparently they hate the smell.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. rhc55 says:

    I might just try that, thank you. I can definitely recommend trying sweet chestnuts, they are divine, though I’m not so fond of them on their own. Chestnut soup is absolutely delicious and every Christmas I make chestnut stuffing with the turkey from a recipe passed down by my mother-in-law. I may even write a blog on it as it is getting seasonal.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. lindasschaub says:

    How unique looking – you made a wonderful job. I like the Fall for the browns and rust colors. Brown has always been my favorite color. I was walking one day this Summer and came upon an unusual tree. I thought it was a fruit tree of some type out in someone’s front yard. I took a picture and used it with that day’s blog post and asked if anyone knew what type of tree it was – got a few answers: a horse chestnut tree. I’ve been meaning to go back and take pictures once the rind/shell opened and now I am reminded to do so.

    Liked by 2 people

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