Guest Author - T. Lynn Adams
Last year I asked my friend for some pinecones from her tree. She showed up with three huge bags! I was thrilled but also stumped. What do you do with so many pinecones?
Well, I’m happy to say I’ve found some wonderful things you can do for yourself or to give as gifts; so gather the children around and have fun!
DECORE: Use pinecones throughout your home for year-round décor. Put them in wicker baskets on tables or the floor. Display them in a large glass bowl or cylinder. Place single pinecones between photos, on the mantle, or bookshelf.
CHRISTMAS: Nestle pinecones among the boughs of your Christmas tree or tie festive ribbon around them and create hanging ornaments. Tie several together and hang them over a doorway with mistletoe or other greenery. Secure them to garlands, tie small ones onto packages...The possibilities are as big as the season.
NAME HOLDERS: Having a holiday or country-themed dinner? Lay several small pine cones on their sides and insert name cards into the open bristles. Complete the look by adding more pinecones to the table centerpiece or table runner.
BIRD FEEDERS: Select several large pinecones and tie yarn or string around them, leaving enough yarn leftover to secure the pinecone to a tree or fencepost. Now spread peanut butter on the outside of the pinecone. Pour wild birdseed into a shallow pan (a pie tin works great). Roll the coated pinecones through the seeds, pressing firmly so the seeds adhere to the peanut butter. Take them outside and hang them were you will be able to watch from a window. Since birds will not land on the pinecones, secure them where the birds can reach the pinecone from a perch of some type. I actually tie mine to a branch, rather then let them hang below. I’ve also just set them out on the porch inside the shallow pan with the remaining birdseed.
SCENTED PINECONES: These are easy to make and the house smells great even while you’re making them. Here are two simple ways to make them:
Option 1: Pour a generous mixture of powdered spices into a large bag. This mixture can be anything that smells good to you: cinnamon, cloves, orange peel, etc. You can even add glitter to this mixture for ‘sparkle’. Next, in a container, mix equal parts of glue and water. Brush, dip or roll your pinecones in the glue mixture. Drop the glue-coated pinecones into the bag of spices. Shake to coat them well. Remove coated pinecones and place on newspapers to dry.
Option 2: This produces a stronger scented pinecone but you will need to purchase 3-4 ounces of scented oil and start the project a month ahead of time. You can purchase scented oils at most craft stores. Using a sponge brush, heavily coat each pinecone with scented oil. Place the pinecones in a heavy-duty garbage bag. If there is leftover oil, you can sprinkle more onto the pinecones or save it for another batch. For extra scent, add powdered cinnamon, cloves, orange or lemon peel, even crushed eucalyptus leaves to the bag, if desired. Seal the bag and store it for 4 weeks. Once a week shake the bag to redistribute anything that may have settled. After a month, remove the pinecones.
To refresh scented pinecones, simply place them in the oven at 200 degrees for a few minutes or reheat in the microwave. When the scent is mostly gone, get one final ‘hurrah’ from them by tossing them into the fireplace.
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MOTHERS: The next crafts involve hot wax and are not recommended for children.
DIPPED PINECONES: These look elegant and can be made with colored or scented wax. Simply melt old scented candles or paraffin wax in a large can. (An empty #10 can works great. With pliers I squeeze one end slightly to make a pour spout. I’ve used the same can for years.) You can place the can directly on the burner while it heats. Remember to use hot pads when handling the can! When melted wax gets overheated it will start to smoke. If not removed from the heat, it can catch fire. Stay attentive and use medium to low heat. If you are melting paraffin wax you can leave it uncolored (it will dry white) or add a broken crayon or two to color it. You can also add candle-making scents to the wax, if you’d like. You can buy these at most craft stores, too.
To wax the entire cone, tie a string around it and lower it into the wax. Lift it out and let the excess drain back into the can. Place on foil to cool. When the first coat cools, dip it again. Repeat this process until it is as coated as you like.
To wax just the tips, carefully pour the wax into a disposable foil pan. (You will need to throw away the pan when you’re done. Cleaning wax out of good pans is very difficult.) Using a plastic fork, carefully roll the pinecone in the wax.
PINECONE FIRE STARTERS: This is a wonderful, scented way to start a fire on chilly winter nights. Gather and crush old, dry leaves inside a bag. You will want about 2 cups of crushed leaves. To this mixture you can also add crushed cinnamon sticks, pinecones, pine needles, eucalyptus leaves or any other scent-producing additive. Melt paraffin wax in an old tin can. While the wax is melting, spray an old muffin tin with cooking spray. Now lay a 4 to 5-inch length of candle wick (purchased at craft stores) into the bottom of each muffin cup with the excess hanging out and over the side of each cup. This long wick is what you will use to light your fire starter.
Place about an inch of crushed leaves in the bottom of each cup. Carefully pour the melted wax over the leaves to cover them. Press a pinecone into the wax mixture. When the wax is set around the cone, place the tin in the freezer for a few minutes. This will help you remove each fire starter. You may need to press down on the edge of the wax with a knife or spoon to get it started but then they will pop right out.
To use them place one in your fireplace between the logs. Light the wick and let it burn. The pinecone and scented wax mixture should burn for ten minutes, plenty of time to fill the house with wonderful scents and light the logs.