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Time for a crafty harvest.


Even though there is probably nothing more gratifying than reaping the edible rewards of a well-spent season of gardening, raising livestock, foraging, fishing and hunting, there's a way to double the pleasure, double the fun and sometimes double the profits of this yearly endeavor.

While you're harvesting the food supply, be creative and harvest nature's bounty of craft supplies at the same time. It's not hard to do-just check out the stuff you normally might discard or ignore. You're bound to discover a bevy of hidden treasures that, with a little creativity and craftsmanship, can be transformed into holiday gift items, seasonal home decor pieces and literal works of art that can bring some extra bucks into the homestead when sold at the fall fairs and bazaars.

There's a lot out there to be harvested--trust me, I've been there. You just have to wrap your mind around the concept of looking at some of the stuff you're ready to cast aside in a more creative way. For example, if you gather eggs, think about what you can do with the eggshell. If you're harvesting sweet corn to freeze, think about what you can create from the cornhusks. If you're harvesting onions, save the outer skins you're peeling off-they're usable and will come in handy, especially if you get to decorating those eggshells! And think about what you can create from decorative turtle or mussel shells.

The list can go on and on, up to and including the wild vegetation you'll find around a farm or pond, such as cattails and reed plants, nuts, berries, pine cones and the like.

I've only had time to experiment with some of my former food harvest castaways, but if you're interested in pumping up your annual harvest in a crafty way, I'll share what I know to help you get started. Then, let your creativity run rampant and share with me (through photos and words) what you've come up with.

Treasures in the trash pile Corn husks

If you harvest corn to put up, save the cornhusks instead of tossing them in the compost. Corn husks can be used for wrapping tamales and seafood and fish to be placed on the gill.

However, corn husks really take on a starring role in the craft arena, as they can be used for making exceptionally attractive corn husk dolls, can be woven into baskets and placemats, can be folded lengthwise to make flowers and bows, plus decorative harvest garlands and wreaths.

Corn husk dolls What you'll need: Corn husks-around 30 Twine or string Scissors Pipe cleaners Cottonball or Styrofoam ball the same size as a cottonball Glue (optional) Corn silk (from your corn) optional

Soak the dried corn husks in warm water until they are soft and pliable.

Take six of the husks, arranging them so that all the tips are on the same end and tie a string around the husks about an inch from the top of the other (larger) end. Trim the large ends with scissors to make them straight and even.

Now, holding the corn husks by the tied end, turn down the corn husks (placing the cotton ball inside) over the tied knot to form the head and then tie another length of string at the "neck."

Take two pipe cleaners and twist them together to make the arms. Place two corn husks (one on each side of the pipe cleaner) about an inch from the bottom of one end of the pipe cleaner (the corn husks will be laid over the end of the pipe cleaner as if appearing to extend over the "hand" rather than facing toward the middle of the twisted together pipe cleaner). Tie the corn husks in place about a half inch up from the end of the pipe cleaner.

Do the same at the other end of the pipe cleaner.

Holding the center of the pipe cleaner, fold back the corn husks at one end and bring them toward the center, spreading them to fully cover the pipe cleaner to form a puffy sleeve arm and tie a knot where they come together near the center. Do the same at the other end of the pipe cleaner.

Now, turn the head upside down so that the "neck" is facing up and place four cornhusks (the wide ends) over the neck knot so that the cornhusks are covering the "head." Tie these in place very securely.

Just above the tie, fold the corn husks downward (away from and exposing the full "head"); insert the pipe cleaner/puffy sleeve arms in the back fold and center it at the neck so that the arm lengths are equal, then tie the corn husks securely below the arms to form the bodice.

Take two corn husks and crisscross them over the bodice above the arms to form shoulders and again, tie them securely in place over the bodice knot.

Now turn the doll upside down so that the head is facing down and the bodice is facing up.

Place six to eight husks (cut to identical length with scissors) and overlap them around and over the bodice (they will probably be covering most of the head at this point), about a quarter inch or so above the bodice knot and tie them securely. Now, turn the doll upright so that the "head" is facing up and fold the husks downward fluffing and arranging them to form a full skirt.

Place the doll skirt over a pint mason jar, so that the skirt will remain puffy as the corn husks dry and as you add finishing touches to the doll.

Now, you'll want to make a decision as to the doll's head covering. A simple but very attractive head cover is simply to use a corn husk to make a bonnet which extends somewhat over the forehead. Cut the husk so that it has pointed edges on both ends. Shape the bonnet around the head, overlapping the forehead a little, and then tie the pointed ends together at the neck.

If desired, you can tuck a little corn silk in between the head and the bonnet to form strands of hair. Or you can forget the bonnet altogether and glue corn silk in place to make a full head of hair.

While many folks make round eyes on the face with a marker, I find the dolls with no eyes, or just fine downward-facing semi-circle eyes to be the most attractive.

Once the face and head covering are finished, slightly bend the head downward for a personal touch and then pose the arms in whatever gracious position you want them to be by bending the sleeved pipe cleaner arms ever so gently. Once the arms are posed as you wish, fold the small bit of pipe cleaner at each toward the sleeve to form hands.

Note: Corn husk dolls are quite appealing in their natural hue; however they can be striking works of art when corn husks are dyed in advance so that the clothing or bonnets possess a compatible earth-tone or subtle hue.

Corn husk harvest wreath What you'll need: A straw wreath base Corn husks a plenty U-pins

Soak husks in warm water until they are soft and pliable.

This attractive wreath is simple to make. Simply cut all of your husks in half horizontally so that all halves are fairly equal in size.

Take a half-piece of husk and fold it over leaving a puff at the folded edge; then secure it onto the straw wreath base with a u-pin. Do the same with the next half-piece of husk and tuck in slightly under the first puffed folded piece before securing it in place with a u-pin. Continue to go around the wreath in the same manner with the folded husk pieces, slightly overlapping them in the same way, with all puffed folds facing in the same direction.

Depending up the size of your straw wreath base and the size (width) of your corn husks, you may need to have two-to-three round circles of overlapping folded husks to cover the wreath.

Corn husk flowers & bows

These are made using relatively the same method as used for the harvest wreath.

For the flowers, simply fold whole or half-lengths of the husk over--still forming that puff in the fold to form a petal. Tie the ends of each folded over husk (petal) together. Then tie all the petal ends together to form the flower. If desired, you can glue a few corn kernels in the center of the flower.

Bows are made in the same way, but you will want some "petals" in the center as well and you can tie a long husk or two around the bottom to form the bow tails.

Corn kernels

Gardeners who plant a plot of corn invariably come up with some "duds" at harvest time-corncobs with too few kemels or only about a third of a cob full. Save these to dry.

Scrape off the dried kernels, then dye them using food coloring or natural dyes from berries, onion skins, etc., and then re-dry them. These earth-toned kernels make the perfect medium for creating mosaic pieces of artwork.

All you need is a flat surface for the backing-disposable flat plates work fine-but old ceramic plates (about the salad size) that can be picked up at a garage sale or may be found in the back of your cabinets are ideal.

Plus you need some hard-fast glue (no super glue if kids are going to participate), plus a pencil (or marker) to first draw the design on the surface. For kids sometimes it works well to find a pattern in a coloring book and then copy or trace it onto your surface.

Once the pattern is drawn, simply fill in the various elements of the drawing with the corresponding colored-kernels. Easy as pie, super fun and great gift item or wall-hanging!


If you keep poultry and have a generous supply of eggs coming your way, you may want to make good use of the eggshells. For a practical matter, if you do keep layers, you can grind up the eggshells and mix it into their feed.

However, if you feed them a mix that already contains a calcium additive (usually ground-up seafood shells of some type), you can always save your whole eggshells for crafty creations, as they provide a super medium for holiday decor (not just Easter) and when decorated in the authentic Ukrainian Easter Egg (pysanky) method, are considered a recognized true art form.

Here's how to get the best of both worlds (the egg food and the eggshell) from the gifts your hens bestow upon you.

First, get a bunch of ice cube trays (dollar stores and garage sales always have a cheap supply) and a large darning needle.

Then, after you gather your eggs, wipe them off, run them through slightly warm water, and poke a needle hole (through the shell and the membrane) at each end (make the bottom one a little larger).

Center the bottom hole over one of the ice cube compartments in the ice cube tray and blow through the top hole. The contents of a normal large chicken egg generally fill one compartment. Fill however many compartments you have according to the eggs on hand and pop the ice cube tray in the freezer. After the eggs in the compartments are frozen, pop out the egg cubes, place them in a freezer bag and then place them back into the freezer. When you need an egg, just pop one out of the bag, let it thaw and cook it whatever way you want.

As far as the eggshells, wash them off with some slightly soapy water, let them drain and thoroughly dry before you store them for your craft projects. If you are going to be placing the eggshell in any sort of dye mix for your particular craft, you'll want to close up the holes. An easy way to do this is with melted wax.

If you are not going to be using a dye but will be decorating your egg with paints, markers or glue designs, an attractive way to conceal the holes is by gluing a designer thumbtack (you know, those curved kind) atop each hole.

Egg Christmas ornaments

Eggs make ideal Christmas ornaments that can be painted, sequined and decorated in any way you might decorate the traditional (round) type purchased at the store.

Because you already have the hole at the top and bottom, you can thread a doubled-over string or ribbon through the holes so that you have a built-in ornament hanger at the top. Keep a small tag of the string at the bottom; fill a curved thumbtack with glue; put the thumbtack through the doubled string loop so that it gets nice and sticky with the glue, then poke the thumbtack into the hole and glue the string tag to the egg.

Onion skin decorated eggs

Because of the beautiful earth tone designs the onion-skin decoration yields, these decorated eggs are complimentary accents to your home decor for any season.

All that's needed for this work of crafty art is the outer skins from a couple of onions, a white eggshell that if blown needs its two holes sealed with melted wax, a piece of cloth that's large enough to wrap around the entire egg with a little room left over, a rubber band and a pot or pan of boiling water.

To decorate the eggshell, wrap the onion skins around its complete surface. Then wrap the cloth completely around the onion-skin covered egg to hold the onion skins in place and rubber band the cloth at the top of the egg to secure it in place.

Place the cloth-wrapped egg in boiling water. If the egg still contains it's contents, you will want to leave the water boiling in order to hard-cook the egg. And if the egg still contains its contents, it will sink.

If it is a blown eggshell (which will be lightweight and float), you'll either want to weight it down with a heavy spoon placed over the top or, if that doesn't work, you'll want to keep turning the egg. And since it doesn't need to be cooked, you can turn the heat off.

After the full egg is cooked or the blown egg has been sloshed in the hot water for around 5-7 minutes, remove the wrapped egg from the water and place it in a bowl or sink of cold water until it is cool to your touch.

Remove the cloth, remove the onion skins, and allow the egg to dry. If you would like a shiny coating to the egg, rub it with a small amount of canola oil after it has completely dried.

Pysanky (Ukranian Easter Eggs

While the proper translation of "pysanky" (or pysanka) is Ukrainian Easter Eggs, these attractive pieces of art can be displayed and showcased throughout the year and make very unique and exquisite one-of-a-kind gift items. The key to decorating eggs in this fashion is the method, similar to batik, used during a layered process.


The eggs are decorated with a special tool called a kistka-a long pencil-like stick with a cone at the end which dispenses melted beeswax through a fine point used to draw a design on the eggshell.

During the decorating process, generally two-to-three dyes are used- going from lightest to darkest color in consecutive order.

The cone is used to scoop up some of the soft beeswax, then held over a candle flame until the beeswax begins to melt.

Once the beeswax is running through the cone (or funnel) the crafter first must use the wax to seal the holes, if the egg has been blown, and then the melted wax running through the cone can be used to begin drawing the first design on the white eggshell. All of the designs (lines, dots, circles, figures) drawn on the white eggshell will remain white.

Once the artist has completed all of the designs that are to remain white, the egg is placed in the first (lightest) color (yellow for example) dye.

Once the dye has held and the egg is the desired hue, pat it with a paper towel and let it dry completely.

Now, the process of melting the wax through the kistka funnel point begins again, this time to create the designs which are to remain the new (example yellow) colon

Again, after all designs on this (example yellow) color have been completed, repeat the drying process.

Now, go through it all again with the next (deeper) color (example, red). Draw the wax designs, go through the drying process, etc. The egg is now ready for the final wax design over this color (example, red) and then final dye (often jet black).

After the egg is completely dry following the final dye, gently hold the egg over the candle flame (not too close to the flame, but close enough to melt the wax) and then quickly and gently wipe off the melted wax from that portion of the egg. Continue to place the remaining waxed areas of the egg over the flame, wipe off, etc.

Once all the wax that has been placed on the eggshell has been melted and wiped off, the egg should be uniformly shiny ... and quite beautiful.

If you're interested in trying your hand at this craft, you can find out more about the process by contacting The Ukrainian Gift Shop, 2872 Fairview Ave. North, Roseville, MN 55113 (1-886-PYSANKA) or www. You may also want to purchase some of the supplies (all are quite affordable) to get started, particularly the kistka tool (which runs under $3).

Mussel, clam & turtle shells

Mussels and clams: Once you've enjoyed a boiled mussel or clam bake meal, don't discard the shells.

They are beautiful in their own right, so no crafting or alterations need be made (unless you want to add your own special decorator touch to the pearly inside finishes).

These shells make great dishes for serving appetizers at that special affair, candy, relishes, sauces, dips and food stuffs such as green and black olives, etc.

These shells are also attractive in the restroom setting when used as soap dishes.

Turtles: Whether you have cleaned a turtle shell out for the meat or have found an empty shell on one of your forays through the woods-keep it! Coat it with a food-safe clear permanent paint (or rub it with canola oil) and then use it as a serving bowl for nuts, candies and even soups!

Other harvestable craft stuff

There's much more out there on place and in the wilds than you might think when it comes to harvestable craft materials.

For example, if you plant okra and some of it goes beyond harvest let it dry, then harvest it for crafts. These dried okra pods make beautiful wreaths and also can be tied to a braided rope to make a gorgeous harvest door or wall hanging. Nuts, berries (dried) and pinecones also make for great wreath additives or accents.

Cattail leaves and reedy plants along pond banks can be harvested and made into braided hangings (on which you can place the okra or even dried cayenne peppers) and also can be weaved into placements or baskets.

All you need to do this year at harvest time is to look beyond the food supply to the creative possibilities at hand and save them. Then once the year's food is put up and under wraps, you can relax inside and enjoy your second harvest of nature's gifts as you turn your toss-aways into treasures!
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Author:Reynolds, Gail
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2009
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