We decided to forego the shopping on Black Friday and meet on the ranch to make holiday wreaths. It is surprisingly easy to do and half of the fun is the hike through the woods and grass meadows to gather material. I like to use various grasses; even the troublesome cheatgrass and crested wheatgrass that we fight so hard to get rid off as they add yellow color to the wreath. Seed heads of forbs like yarrow, sunflower and blanketflower are great, and colorful berries including rosehips, snowberries and mountain ash are indispensible. Lots of evergreens are needed and I like to use juniper (preferably with berries) and I prefer fir instead of pine due to its shorter needles. Finally, long branches from living shrubs are used for the base. The base can be bought, but why purchase something that is so easy to make? Simply use some thin metal wire (sold in all craft stores), and wrap around the branches bending them into a ring. It may not look round at first, but the metal wire is amiable to shaping. We even used spurge stems as fillers and it felt good to use this noxious exotic for something useful (Picture 1). Once you have the base, the fun begins. Start making small bouquets containing some greenery and colored berries and seed heads. Wrap it around the base a couple of times with the metal wire until it is fixed. Make a second bouquet and place it slightly back from the first one (Picture 2). Continue adding material working your way around the base and be careful to wrap each bouquet several times to ensure materials are secure.
Picture 1. Emaline proudly holds her base made from shrub branches and spurge shoots. Metal wire is wrapped around the branches to keep the material in place and to shape it into a ring.
Picture 2. Small bouquets of material are added to build the wreath, and each is secured to the base by wrapping the stem ends with metal wire.
The tricky part is the end where the bouquets meet as it can be difficult to hide stem ends and wire. Adding a ribbon that conveniently hides those areas solves this.
Picture 3. The finished product. I was amazed how great all the wreaths looked given that I was the only one who had made them before. Joshua even put deer antlers in his, which must the first of its kind!
This may not qualify as “eating from the land”, but it utilizes local material to make something beautiful to nurture the soul, which is just as critical as nurturing ones body.
For what it is worth, we ate turkey sandwiches for lunch.
Ylva graduated from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences with a M.Sc. in Biology and Horticulture in 1996 and a Ph.D. in Ecology from Penn State University in 2004. She received the Alumni Association Dissertation Award for her work in agroecology and subsistence farming in Sub-Saharan Africa. Post-doctoral positions at Montana State University and later at Copenhagen University as a Marie Curie Fellow have allowed her to explore the role of mycorrhiza, a root-fungus symbiosis, for geothermal plants in Yellowstone National Park and coastal grasslands in Denmark. Her research has been published in journals such as Ecology, Journal of Ecology and New Phytologist.
Ylva currently works at MPG Ranch as a soil ecologist. She explores the role of mycorrhiza in the success of exotic plants and examines the use of specific pathogens to combat invasions. In her spare time Ylva mountain-bikes, plays soccer, and maintains a large vegetable garden.