By the time this reaches you, it will be approximately 90 days until Christmas! YIKES!

So, if you want to get ahead of the game, start planning now. A few dollars spent or saved monthly could mean that you won’t have any really big bills come January.

In late September, I start to gather the materials for my natural fall and Christmas decorations and some of my handmade gifts for family and friends. Right now, the rose hips on my pink shrub roses are turning from green to bright red, as are the hips from the wild roses that grow along the country road leading to the highway from my home. They will need to be harvested before the birds get to them. I will wrap a straw wreath with some corn shucks — I wet the shucks and wrap while they are still wet, then pin them in place with wreath pins and let dry — and then glue on groups of rose hips between some dried sunflower heads I’ve gathered. The rose hips will be used for tea by a friend of mine, and then she will put out the wreath with the sunflower heads on it for the birds to feast on this winter.

I want to make a big wreath made from old barbed wire for winter. I have an abundance of Artemisia annua, also known as Sweet Annie, growing in various places in the yard. I will cut branches of Annie and wire them in place on the wreath and let it dry. I have some wheat heads from the fields, some dried corn (I pulled the shucks away from the ears and let them dry), and some of the dried sunflower heads. I may use some dried flowers or some “recycled” silk flowers to add a little pop of color to the wreath along with a big ribbon bow. This big wreath will hang on my second-floor deck for the fall and winter months. Yes, the birds will eventually strip the sunflower heads and the corn ears, but that’s what it’s for — the birds need to eat when there’s snow on the ground.

I may make a trip to the pine trees and get a few buckets of pine cones to soak. When you soak pine cones, they pretty much close up and are a lot easier to wire to a wreath form, as well as being not quite so sticky. Then, when the wreath dries, the cones open once again and stay tightly in place. One of these will decorate a door here at home, and the rest will go to friends as gifts, usually well before Christmas — nothing wrong with being a little early instead of late.

I also have an abundance of bittersweet growing in the yard along the fence and IF I can keep the cows away from it, I will gather it for its beautiful orange berries on the vines and make fall decorations from that. The orange berries open up once it frosts, and they make the prettiest little orange and white blossoms, all dried along the length of the vines. If I can get to the creek, I may get some grapevine to mix in with the bittersweet … time will tell.

I will go to the cornfield and gather stalks with the ears attached to set in the old tub by the front doors, along with a few pumpkins. They will be my fall decorations. If I get really crafty, I may try to make a corn-shuck dolly with the youngest member of the family. One of these dolls is a history lesson from pioneer days as well as a way of teaching how to use what’s available to make something to play with. And if she wants to make more than one dolly, we will wire one or two on a straw wreath for her mother’s front door.

These gifts made from the bounty of the fields and trees, the jams and jellies I make from the wild fruit that grows in the pastures and draws, and the pasta sauce I make from my garden tomatoes, peppers and homegrown herbs will comprise the bulk of my Christmas gifts this year. By starting now and using a few minutes each day to gather and combine things, I can have an old-fashioned fall and Christmas season and stay within my budget.

Plan ahead, and enjoy the beautiful fall weather.

Until next month,



by Paula Vogelgesang

Paula Vogelgesang is the author of the monthly column "Pennywise", and is a monthly contributor to the Farm And Livestock Directory.

Email her at [email protected]

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