Sometimes, I get these great ideas….  Well, I always think they are great ideas, but my family might disagree and call them crazy ideas, I’m not sure why.  I don’t know where they come from, but they always hit me with a wham, and somehow it never crosses my mind that these great ideas might be, perhaps, a bit difficult to carry out.

I get different reactions from various family members when I blurt these famous lines of mine – “I had a great idea….!”  Or “Wouldn’t it be fun….!”.  A few deadbeats will roll their eyes and moan and groan, as if I had just sentenced them to hard labor on a chain gang, but thankfully a few creative and ambitious souls will perk right up and gleefully rub their hands in anticipation of my latest notion.

So …. I had another one a few weeks back.  I had this great idea of hosting a candlelit walk through our snow covered woods.  Make a few ice candles and invite a few friends to stroll down the candle lit path to enjoy the solitude and serenity of our winter wonderland.  I mentioned it to hubby and didn’t even get the eye roll, so I decided it was a go ahead and proceeded to make plans.  And like plenty of other great ideas I’ve had, this one began to grow a bit beyond the first illumination.  Well, kind of picked up a momentum of it’s own and snowballed, you could say.

You see, once the vision of the candlelit woods was firmly established in my mind, it didn’t take much more to also envision a candlelit walk out to the woods, never mind that it is a half mile walk stroll across the field to reach the woods.  I’ll admit I did have to stop and ponder the feasibility of ice candles stretching out for one and half miles around the field and through the woods; it seemed it could be, well, a bit difficult, maybe.  Then, viola!. Someone suggested Mason jars, and that got me to thinking about all the vases I have laying around …….  And just like that I knew we were in business – the “Mile and half long romantic candlelit walk around the farm” business.

I learned how to make ice candle luminaries, and got pretty accomplished at it by number 100.  I borrowed and begged canning jars from family and friends, and we visited the candle aisle of the local General Dollar Store a dozen times or so.  We packed and groomed the trail for walking and skiing with a snowmobile, then paced it out to figure out the spacing of the candles.  The trail was a complete loop around a thirty acre field, with a detour through the woods at the halfway point; well, to be exact it was 1200 paces out to the woods, 650 paces through the woods, and 1200 paces back to the starting point.  About one and half miles start to finish.

On Friday we set out 90 ice candle luminaries in the woods (ten broke while transporting), and on Saturday we set out 140 jars and vases that illuminated the trail around the field.  Our guests were set to arrive at dusk, and the weather was perfect, about 25 degrees, with not a breath of wind present.

And it was perfect, just perfect.

As I stood on Steep Hill, from where I could see lines of twinkling candles for a quarter mile or more in every direction, I could hardly believe how beautiful it was, and how blessed I am to live here.  And how fortunate I am to see my crazy ideas come to life.

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Make your own ice candle luminary to decorate the outdoors for pennies and a little time.  Materials needed:  a large plastic bucket, water, rubber gloves (optional), and a votive candle.

Step 1.  Fill a large bucket almost full with cold water and set outside to freeze, keeping them out of direct sunlight;  a six quart or two gallon size bucket is ideal.  I like to set them out in early evening and let them freeze overnight, usually they are ready in about 12 to 14 hours if the temps are between zero and 15 degrees.

Step 2.  When the top is completely frozen and you can see a ring of frozen ice around the outside of the bucket that is 1 to 2 inches thick, your ice candle is ready to remove from the bucket.  A 2 inch or thicker ice candle will be sturdier and last longer, and also have a more frosted appearance when lit; a 1 inch ice candle will tend to be clear and look like glass, allowing the flame of the candle to show through when lit.

Step 3.  Turn the bucket upside down in a sink and run warm water over the bottom of the bucket until the ice candle releases from the bucket.  You will notice that the ice layer that was on the bottom of the bucket is thinner than the rest of the ice candle, this will be easy to remove and now becomes the top of your ice candle.

Step 4.  Leaving the candle upside down so the thin layer of ice is on top, break the ice in the top center of the candle, either with your hands or a chisel type object, leaving an edge of at least one to two inches for the upper rim.

Step 5.  Tip the ice candle to pour out water and floating ice chunks – and there you have it!  Place outside and set a votive candle in the center; light the candle at dusk, then enjoy the beauty of candlelight from your ice luminary!

Wreath Making 101

October 29, 2008

wreath class me and deb

“Take what you need.  Pay your respects.  Leave the rest.”  Harvesting advice from the First Nation Tribal Elders

The past two Monday evenings my sister Deb and I were fortunate to spend learning about wreath making in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in a class taught by Julie Miedtke, an Itasca County Extension Educator, and Janet Christensen, a professional wreath maker.

The gathering of balsam boughs and their manufacture into evergreen holiday products is a long-standing heritage of Minnesota’s North woods.  The Minnesota wreath industry produces about $23 million dollars of wreaths and holiday greens in a short two month period each year.  In class we learned the guidelines of harvesting; how to obtain permits, how to harvest the boughs in a sustainable manner, which species are desirable such as balsam, white pine, northern white cedar, and princess pine, and how to store them once they are harvested.  Did you know that fresh boughs retain their needles best if harvested after the second hard frost?  Nature is so amazing!

During the second class we learned a method of wreath making, called layering, which produces a very full, high end wreath.  In this technique, small bunches of about 6-8 stems varying in length from 5″ to 10″ are wired around a hoop in a layering method; each wreath takes about 10 pounds of balsam or greens, and more than a couple of hours to complete.  The smell of Christmas and the Northwoods filled our class room, and then enveloped us during our 3 1/2 hour drive home.

The ideas we have are flowing, growing, and bursting at the seams; our husbands will shake their heads and wonder again why we love to make more work for ourselves.  But it’s not really work if you love it, is it?

garden fence

This verdigris fence in my garden was a twin size day bed a few months ago.

As we were taking apart this extra bed I started thinking it might be really cute in my garden. My husband drilled new holes so we could put it together with the ends attached to the middle the long way instead of crossway. Then we popped off the protective tips on each post so they were hollow and we could push them into the ground.

Viola!! We created our own garden fence out of a bed we no longer needed!  You can do it yourself with a metal daybed or a crib; look for them at garage sales, the hunt is half the fun!