Monday, September 26, 2011

Unconventional Harvest

The autumnal equinox was last Friday, the 23rd. Fall is my favorite season. Not only am I a person who loves sweaters and hats, but also I love a good harvest, an unconventional one of course. We’ve been harvesting vegetables and berries from the garden for some time. I’m writing about the stuff that falls from trees and I’m not talking apples (though apples are appreciated).

Last week the call came in from Modern Mommie. “They’re falling! Bring some bags and meet me on the north end of Marion Parkway now.”  She didn’t need to say what, I knew. Acorns. We scavenged the grass and gutters for acorns with the endearing help of Modern Mommie’s three-year-old daughter who simply refers to them as “corns.” She was completely enchanted and very serious about collecting.

Why? Because acorns are beautiful! A mass produced holiday anything made in China doesn’t stand a chance when placed next to an acorn. Yeah, not even a plastic acorn can beat the real deal, but they manufacture them anyway and people buy them when they could just pick them up for free. Go figure. Once you bring them home, roast them in the oven at about 180 degrees to be rid of any little natural critters (worms) that like to burrow into the nut. If you pick up an acorn with holes in the nut, best to leave that one on the ground. You'll note the caps will fall off after the nut dries and shrinks, a little wood glue will take care of that. 

An aside: I've always wondered what the people in China think as they paint decorations for Christian and Jewish holidays. I'm certain its a very different experience from when their ancestors made items that pertained to their culture. Funny how for thousands of years imports from far away lands had high value and often represented fine craftsmanship, something friends came to admire. Now it could be a plastic Easter egg or a plastic carnival whistle.

The horse chestnuts will be falling soon. Here’s a garland I made several years back. I’ve about 30 feet of horse chestnut garlands, maybe more. Readers will ask so I’ll explain now. To make this garland, take freshly fallen horse chestnuts (which are NOT edible) and grab that drill. Drill holes completely through the chestnut while fresh (try to drill after they’ve hardened and be prepared for a trip to the ER). Roast the chestnuts in the oven on a low setting, say 180 degrees, until they dry out and harden up. String them up and hang them in a place to completely dry. If there is ANY moisture left in the nut, it will mold from the inside. Best to ensure it’s really good and dry. That’s it. You have an organic, homemade garland that will decorate your home for years and cost you nothing but some fond memories collecting and string.

Here’s something to think about. Young children love collecting acorns and chestnuts. It’s something they can do without help. Bring some cider and gingersnaps along when you go. When the holidays arrive the acorns and the chestnuts hang on the tree and the children feel a nice satisfaction of seeing they truly contributed to the magic of the holiday tree.

Modern Mommy’s little one had a terrific idea. She told us we need to place our “corns” in a “nature bowl.” She was right!

So, out came the wooden bowls from the thrift. I prefer to purchase bowls carved from one piece. Bowls at thrift stores may come home a little scratched but sandpaper will take care of that. I often sand off any finish and prepare the freshly exposed wood with mineral oil. They’re simple and eloquent and cost something crazy in convention retail. But, you don’t need to pay that price when you thrift.

This beautiful bowl was purchased at a half-off sale for $1.50. This is art.

Found for $6, this myrtle wood bowl somehow magically ripens pears to a mouth-watering perfection.
Our bread bowl for $3. Now's the time to prepare citrus and clove pomanders to dry in time for the holidays. Young children enjoy this most when the fruit is pre-punctured in patterns, cloves slide in the peel without struggle.
Before racing out to buy holiday decorations, which have probably already arrived in local shopping malls, take a look in your back yard or a walk in the woods. Nice memories at little cost that build up to something magical and meaningful for the holidays. 

There's one more reason I take note of the autumnal equinox, it's Mr. Golighty's birthday.

Among a few things, we made a hand stitched book of poems about his favorite things.
Please list in the comment, other handmade holiday decorations your family enjoys. Ah, if only bittersweet grew wild in Colorado. Wait, roses do. Hmm, something with rosehips would be nice.

Least I not forget the Ponderosa Pinecones. They're a bit sharp but beautiful. A small eye hook drilled into the base with a ribbon slipped through make for something beautiful to hang.

Post Script: On a recent reconnaissance mission I saw that Pottery Barn is selling wooden balls with acorn tops glued to them, made in China. $14.50 buys you 56 fake acorns. I don't have 56 acorns, I've a couple hundred. They're also selling wine corks. I doubt they're recycled corks. Rats! A missed opportunity to compare the cost of wooden bowls.


Janeen said...

I love the color of peach pits. Next year, after I do my peach canning, I'm going to soak them clean and put them in a bowl with other natural things.

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Shopping Golightly said...


I've always thought the color of the peach flesh around it's pit to be one of the most beautiful colors. The texture of the pit is gorgeous. I wonder it it would make for stamp art.

Roxie700 said...

I like to sew. I take the many many flannel blankets I find for pennies at the thrift stores and cut them into pieces for quilts. Here in Texas we do not need or want heavy blankets. So I do not even put a thick batting into the middle. I almost always use an old flannel sheet or nothing...then add a backing of a vintage sheet. I quilt this by machine. Add a binding and have a nice gift for little money. No one else in my family sews. This gift is very appreciated.

Shopping Golightly said...


I've lamented so may times that I do not know how to sew. I'm forever jamming sewing machines.

I admire your craftsmanship in quilt making. You make quilts in the manner they originated, out of resourcefulness.

I've a friend who recently started quilting. She tells me some people pay $100's for the new fabric to make a quilt.

Modern Mommie tells me that chain fabric stores sell pre-cut quilting squares.

All this seem to de-value and undermine the original beauty of quilting.

Have you seen the quilts from Gees Bend, Mississippi? They're so beautiful it brings tears:

Please keep the original spirit of quilting alive and spread it out to others. Shame how consumerism has taken an art and made it into an assembly line of sorts.

erin said...

love the postscript. my two little ones (2 and 3.5) spent lots of time this weekend while camping collecting acorns. they were intent on bringing them home to fatten up our many squirrels, also noting that the acorn tops would make excellent "fairy bowls."

last year we found gorgeous leaves in autumnal hues, dipped them in melted beeswax and strung them up on a long piece of thread. cost was just about $0 and they were so much prettier than MIC junk decor. plus the smell of the beeswax was divine.

this year's big project is going to be an advent calendar made out of vintage thread spools for my kiddos (like the one here:

poor kids won't get a bite of waxy "chocolate" every morning. pity. ;)

Shopping Golightly said...


The spool advent calendar is darling!

Spools will be hanging on my holiday tree. Not certain if they will be wrapped in word definitions from old dictionary's or music. Since I did an opera tree not too many years ago. I think it'll be dictionary this year. One old dictionary for $1 will cover my tree, home, property and car if I used all the pages.

Yes, acorn caps outfit the best of fairy kitchens.

Megan said...

I love to eat peaches and the texture of the pits is interesting & beautiful. It's great that you get a snack & a decoration all in one! The flannel to make quilts is a great idea. I've seen "vintage quilts" for sale & they are not nearly as gorgeous as the ones on the gees bend website. Or the ones that my great aunt made. Wish I had gotten those after she passed. The kits & pre-cut squares are counter to what quilts were first started use material from old clothes that were falling apart...the 1st recycling!
I unfortunately am not crafty & the only thing I make is cookies!!

Anonymous said...

You mentioned rosehips. For many years I have harvested these and I wax them so they last longer. The wax dulls the color slightly, but gives them a lovely smooth surface.
I use sprigs of these to make gifts and arrangements for the fall through winter holidays. They will last this way until early Feb. I love the topic of this most recent post. Thanks!

Harper said...

For the holidays every year, my family hand makes thousands of dumplings every christmas eve. it takes hours of work, but it's so worth it-- and I don'teven eat them! we save them for new years (it's korean tradition to eat dumpling soup on the new year), and cook many right away to give to our friends and neighbors. :) I wrote a newspaper article about it last year

Anonymous said...

I decorate for autumn using items I find in nature around our home such as wheat, real leaves,twigs, berries, pumpkins and gourds. My grandchildren and I take walks to gather these things around our farm. I caution you when using real acorns (and sometimes other nuts) there is usually a little worm making his home inside who will "drill" out when brought inside.You may end up with a bowl full of worms! I learned this the hard way. Good Luck:) Farmgirl in Ohio

Shopping Golightly said...


On it on the potential worms. I roast the acorns in the oven on a low setting just for a few hours to take care of any live organisms.

Thanks for mentioning that.

Beth said...

Lovely reminder of the wonderful things available in one's own backyard. Glycerin and a hammer (to mash the stem end) are useful tools for this purpose: evergreen stems (esp. boxwood!) and even rose hips can be preserved for a season this way. Over the years, I've relied on a few store-bought flowers and what I can find out back for beautiful table arrangements for holidays and family meals. They've always been a hit.

Shopping Golightly said...

Oh Beth!

Thank you! I've a boxwood hedge and love it. I never considered glycerin with it!

Laurie said...

I love to use poke in arrangements this time of year, which grows wild here. They have a long bunch of purple berries, and very colorful leaves in the fall. An enjoyable post!

Laurie said...

Though it has many names, I see that Wikipedia lists it as pokeweed.

Serena said...

This post reminded me of a holiday craft project I once made in 5th grade. I was enrolled in a gifted class, and the chosen topic for that year was trees. To tie in with the tree topic, right before the holidays, our teacher took us on a field trip to the park where we gathered nature's bounty of leaves, acorns, pine cones, etc. When we got back, we spray painted some styrofoam wreath rings and glued our finds onto them to create holiday wreaths. I have to admit, I didn't fully appreciate what we did until much later. Now I love the organic home decor look.

Beth said...

Please do a quick review of the comments. Some slime snuck in a viagra ad (or something).

Shopping Golightly said...

Thanks Beth!

How sneaky! Their comment, though late, was listed second in date. AND, it did not tally with the number of comments. Ugh! How rotten is that apple!

RETRO REVA said...

I LOVE your header!
i actually collect those apple wash tins! (is that what they're called?)
Must follow you asap :)

Shopping Golightly said...


Thank you. I love vintage enamelware. The apple pattern you're referencing is Graniteware from France. A quick Google and you're eyes will google with the many gorgeous pieces.

I think a colorful kitchen is a happy one.

AvaTrimble said...

I love your autumn garlands! I'm planning to do some old-fashioned, home-made decorating at Christmas-time, but I think I'll have to skip trying to do any fall decorating. We're still moving in, and things are just too crazy! Plus, Las Cruces doesn't feel very autumnal yet - it was HOT today!

As an aside - contrary to much-beloved popular belief, quilting didn't originate as a means to use up scraps of fabric! Most 18th century quilting was "whole cloth" quilting, not pieced, where groups of well-to-do or middling women would get together and chat while all of them worked on "quilting at" the cloth for a petticoat (the exposed skirt kind of the 18th century) or a coverlet for a bed or whatnot. Even in the 19th century, quilts with completely mismatched pieces were rare.

I think it's really interesting how quilting has become a symbol of using up all the bits and pieces in a practical way, and female solidarity, even though it didn't exactly work the way people think. I'm not knocking quilting - it can be both practical and lovely - but it functioned in the past differently from how we expect.

Yeah, I'm a nerd, I know. I study 19th century domestic history, which is a thing fraught with myths. And I am keenly interested in all of them. :)