Gift Wrap from Nature & the Recycling Bin!

by Sandy Swegel

As always, necessity spurs creativity in my life. I had a party to go to last night and needed to wrap a simple gift, but had no wrapping paper much less any of those easy gift bags in the house.  Even though I love a nicely wrapped gift, I’m really cheap when it comes to buying wrapping paper, but wrapping gifts in newspaper comics is so 1970s that I can’t make myself do it anymore.

So in a panic, I headed out to the recycling bin where I found the box to put the gift in and some brown packing paper to use as wrap.  The recycling bins happen to be next to the ancient spruce tree, so I pulled out my pruners and cut off some low little branches to use as a “bow.”  I thought I’d have to use a pine cone, but the cotoneasters had some great berries so another snip-snip and I had a red accent piece.  Jute twine from the junk drawer, a curl of orange rind from the compost and a couple of twistie ties later, I had a beautifully wrapped gift and it didn’t cost a penny, except for the stress of scurrying for last-minute wrap.

You can do this even more artfully and gracefully if you plan a bit.  Keep a neighborhood mental map of where you can “forage” decorations from shrubs with berries, or soft cedar trees. Twigs and sticks work great too.  In a pinch, walnuts from the kitchen or even a tangerine make an edible wrap.  To my surprise, I got more praise for the wrapping than for the gift!

There are zillions of internet image ideas for “gift wrap” from nature.  If you live someplace warm, you can even follow the example of blogger Justina Blakeney and use big tropical leaves for the wrapping paper.

Photo Credits: http://blog.justinablakeney.com/2011/11/nature-wraps-diy-green-gift-wrap-for-the-holidays.htmlhttp://www.corinnavangerwen.com/2011/10/15/green-gift-wrapping-workshop/

 

A Gift for Wild Animals

by Sandy Swegel

After the first big cold snow of the season, I find myself drinking coffee next to the window, captivated by the Wild Kingdom drama of the outdoors…watching the many different kinds of birds foraging or lurking near the bird feeder waiting their turn, or hearing the rustling of unknown small furry creatures in the garden debris.

The best gift for the outdoor animals is a heated bird bath.  I might even put two out:  one on the deck rail for the birds and one on the ground in a wild area for all the other thirsty creatures…rabbits, squirrels and even the field mice. When it’s super cold like it is now, snow doesn’t melt and there are no natural water sources near my house.  Maybe a water source will keep the squirrels from eating holes in my irrigation pipes.

Holiday Shopping List for all the Animals in Your Life

Dogs:  Plump baby carrots are the gift of choice for my dogs.   I had to fence off the main garden from their enthusiastic digging, but I leave an area of little round carrots and beets for them to “discover.” Cats:   Catnip of course. Don’t waste your time on anything else. Chickens:  Swiss Chard is my chickens’ most favorite food. I think they like its natural saltiness. I throw bags of dried leaves on the garden bed as insulation just so I can harvest some greens from under the bags all winter. Wild birds:  Sunflower Seeds naturally…and any seeds. I discovered dozens of little birds the other day in the snow in a patch of lambsquarter and tall weeds that I had foolishly allowed to go to seed. Bees:  Wildflower seeds of course. Rabbits:  A wild clover patch, anything green. Field Mice:  Any seeds left to fall on the ground.  Overgrown zucchini and pumpkins left to rot. Squirrels:  Pumpkins.  The Halloween pumpkin left out is the perfect squirrel buffet. Owls, hawks:  Any of the above mentioned seeds left in the garden bring the mice and voles and other rodents that are the perfect gift for the birds of prey.  The rodents double as gifts for the snakes. Soil microbes: What else but moo poo tea is the ideal gift for the soil Earthworms:  Make them a compost pile.  And forget to harvest some of the root vegetables. As the vegetables decompose in place in early spring, hundreds of hungry earthworms show up for the feast. Humans:  All the vegetables are the perfect gift of health and vitality for the humans in your life, especially when packaged with the love you grew them with.

I wish to all this Winter:  abundant food and water and a warm place for all good creatures.

Photo Credit:

http://birdsandbloomsblog.com/2013/11/09/winter-bird-bath-tips/

http://dipperanch.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-last-purple-rattlesnake.html

 

One Reason to Weed Right Now!

by Sandy Swegel

It’s the week after Thanksgiving and the beginning of a month of serious holiday celebrations. In Colorado night temperatures are getting colder…my compost pile freezes at night.  I’ve given all the garden and especially the trees a good watering and turned off the irrigation system.  It is time for our well-earned winter rest. Even if you are in a warmer climate, it’s a good time to take a good winter rest.  People are thinking about festivities…not whether your garden is in perfect condition.  All of nature has cycles of dormancy where nature just takes a rest.  It’s the gardener’s turn to do that now.

I did see in the news one reason when it is absolutely essential to do some weeding if you have this problem.  A young toddler in China had to go to the doctor because a dandelion seed had flown into her ear and germinated.  It was starting to grow.  That’s about the only good reason I can figure to weed in December.  Otherwise it’s time to sit back and enjoy the beauty and the bounty as we like to say at BBB Seed.

There is one other gardening-related task I do in December.  It’s time to try to recover the poor gardener’s overworked body. It is no longer OK to have dirt under my nails and cracked fingers and dirty feet from spending all my time working in the garden.  It takes a bit of effort, but you can heal those cracks in your fingers in time for holiday parties.  So use those gritty soaps and herbal lotions and get cleaned up and re-moisturized.  It’s the season to enjoy and celebrate. You deserve it. It’s been a good year.

Photo Credit: yourhealth.asiaone.com/content/dandelion-seed-found-growing-chinese-girls-ear-canal