What Sits At the Top of Your Christmas Tree?

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Mark Roberts "Golden Age" fairy sits at the top of our Christmas tree.

Mark Roberts “Golden Age” fairy sits at the top of our Christmas tree.

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What sits on top of your Christmas tree? 

Hugh Roberts, of East Sussex UK,  is politely curious.

In fact, everyone who responds to his query will help add another pound sterling to the charitable contribution he plans to make in January.  His goal is L250. That is a lot of Christmas beauty!

Blogging friend Sue posted her tree topper earlier today and alerted me to Hugh’s challenge.  What lovely Christmas postings you’ll find from Sue!

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Mark Robert's Sugar Plum Fairy

Mark Robert’s Plum Pudding  Fairy

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When we moved to this home (and garden) a few years ago, a Christmas tree left behind by the previous owner was waiting for us in a huge box in the garage.  It was a pre-lit tree, with white lights, and we decided to make it our “den” tree that first year.

There was very little Christmas joy as I tried, in vain, to get all of the lights working.  I finally gave up and just put a string of colored lights on top and used this as our “overflow” tree for ornaments not displayed in the living room.  This tree held lots of childhood memories and fun ornaments given over the years by students and extended family.

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Mark Robert's "Mistletoe and Holly" fairy

Mark Robert’s “Mistletoe and Holly” fairy

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That January, we decided to just leave this tree assembled, covered in plastic dust covers, in the basement.  The ornaments were packed, but we just left the lights in place.  We’ve used the tree another time or two, but last year was so hectic that it never saw the lights of Christmas.

Earlier this month my partner began the discussion about discarding this old tree.  I think he planned to use its component parts in the deer barriers down in our ravine.  But I kept putting him off… and finally, took the trouble to go and lift the dust covers.  Not bad….

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December 22, 2014 Christmas tree 021.

I had been half-heartedly  shopping for a “new” artificial tree for the den.  I love the lights in the area where we sit and cook, and really wanted to bring some of those old ornaments out again.  But nothing I had seen online or in stores seemed worth the asking prices.  (Yes, I know, after Christmas sales…)

And so in a moment of sheer stubborness I wrestled this old tree up from the basement and plunked it down beside my chair.

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A new "Santa" ornament handmade from a cypress knob by a local artist.

A new “Santa” ornament handmade from a cypress knob by a local artist.

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There wasn’t much enthusiasm in the house, I must admit.  But when I plugged in the string of lights, it did look festive.

We began “fluffing” the tree.  The tree stood there the rest of the day with just the lights burning.  I was off to my parents’ home for the day, and needed to get on the road.  I planned to decorate it the following day.

Well, my partner continued to fluff it and bend it back into acceptable shape.  Its cheery glow greeted me when I returned home that evening.

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December 22, 2014 Christmas tree 026.

I was at peace with the decision to save the tree.  That is, until the following morning when I plugged it in on the way to the coffee pot.

The lights lasted maybe two minutes, and then nothing.  I tried and retried the plug, the fuses, the cord… Nothing would bring those old lights back to life.  They were more than 10 years old, but I still hated to give up too easily.

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December 22, 2014 closeups 004

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My partner is no fan of non-functioning Christmas lights.  He helped out by disentangling them from the tree.

I plugged them into another outlet and went through the string bulb by bulb.  And again, and again.  No amount of jiggling or replacement bulbs brought them back to life.

By this time he was on his way to Walgreens to find us some new lights.

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December 22, 2014 Christmas tree 022.

But there was still the problem of the factory lights, burned out and hard wired onto the tree.  Most of the bulbs were blackened from their little explosions years ago.  They were clumsily attached, and just marred the tree in every way you might name.

And so faithful partner went to work with wire snips, pliers, and brute force.  He liberated the tree.

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Handmade "Santa" purchased from the same local artist last year.

Handmade “Santa” purchased from the same local artist last year.

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Hours later, we were finally ready to place the new strings of white lights.  What light!  What brightness! 

This was no longer a cast-off.  It was transformed into a thing of beauty.  And I decorated it accordingly.

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December 22, 2014 Christmas tree 025.

Our Mark Roberts Christmas fairies, usually enchanting the mantlepiece, took places of honor on the tree instead.  We decided to dedicate this tree to the magic of Christmas.

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December 22, 2014 Christmas tree 027.

It holds many of our Santa Claus ornaments, including  one crafted from a cypress knob by a local artist, which we purchased from her earlier in the month.

We created this tree to celebrate the love, generosity, kindness, and miracle-making magic the Christmas season always brings.

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A gift on my first Christmas.

A gift on my first Christmas.

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It is decorated with gifts I have  received from my very first Christmas until this one.  It celebrates the power of belief, the power of persistence, and the power of love. 

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Another gift from one of my childhood Christmas celebrations.

Another gift from one of my childhood Christmas celebrations.

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So will you join me in answering Hugh’s challenge?  If you blog, just make a post about your own Christmas tree, and link back to Hugh.  You’ll find instructions on his page.  If you don’t have your own blog, he explains how you can join in, too.

It doesn’t cost a penny to participate… only a loving heart full of joy and goodwill!

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December 22, 2014 Christmas tree 024

Merry Christmas!

Woodland Gnome 2014

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December 22, 2014 closeups 001

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A Circle Unbroken

December 17, 2014 wreath 001

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It is evening of the seventeenth of December.  Those of us who celebrate Christmas have entered “crunch time.”

The preparations feel endless sometimes.  Our shopping lists and “to do” lists telescope.  After the second visit this week with our friends at the main Williamsburg post office,  I am breathing a bit easier that “Christmas” is in the mail to loved ones who live far away.

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The final wreath I plan to make this year is complete, and in place on the dining room table.  It is an old grapevine wreath I made years ago from "found" vines.  I added reingeer moss and oyster shells.

The final wreath I plan to make this year is complete, and in place on the dining room table. It is an old grapevine wreath I made years ago from “found” vines. This year I’ve added reindeer moss and oyster shells.

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It is, perhaps, the repetition, year to year, of those small family rituals of the Christmas season which make this such a special time.  Every December we are drawn back to the music, the aromas, the tastes, and the much loved Christmas decorations we have enjoyed so much in years passed.

Saturday’s task was making fruitcake for my parents.  They love our recipe, passed on from Grandmother,  based on an applesauce spice cake she loved to make when my mother was a child.   We add many different fruits and nuts, jam, cherries, and pineapple to this basic cake recipe.

I found my notes from the epic batches I used to make in the 1980’s.  That recipe called for two dozen eggs.  The other ingredients were measured in pounds.  It took an entire day of effort, and yielded at least a dozen cakes.

I only doubled the basic recipe this year, a modest effort.  Yet from cooking down the apples for applesauce to wrapping the finished cakes felt like a day’s work.

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Moss fern will thrive here in bright, indirect light.  It is in a "semi-terrarium;" partly, but not fully grown in glass.

Moss fern will thrive here in bright, indirect light, in the center of the wreath.  It is in a “semi-terrarium;” partly, but not fully grown in glass.

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Fruitcake is one of the flavors of Christmas in our family.  Tomorrow I’ll make another batch of blond fruit cakes, which Mother calls “Dundee Cake.”  It will be rich in cherries, walnuts, pecans, and dates; perfumed with a little fresh orange zest.

We’ll  have this cake ready to serve friends who stop in and to enjoy ourselves with a cup of chai.

Wreathes speak of this repetition; the unbroken circle of the year turning back to Christmas once again.

Every December I go out early in the month to cut fragrant Cedar and collect pine cones.  I cut herbs, and sometimes roses, for the year’s Christmas wreathes.  Cedar is one of the aromas of Christmas which speaks to me most poignantly.

We always went out to cut a cedar tree from a friend’s field when I was a child, and then brought it home on the roof of the car, and set it up in the living room where it filled the house with its fresh spicy green aroma.  We knew it was finally “Christmas” once our tree was lit and decorated in the living room.

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We always had an Advent Wreath on the kitchen table when I was growing up, and lit the candles each night at dinner. We lit an additional candle each week as we counted the days until Christmas. This is a gesture towards remembering that beautiful Advent wreath my mother always made for us.

We always had an Advent Wreath on the kitchen table when I was growing up, and lit the candles each night at dinner. We lit an additional candle each week as we counted the days until Christmas. This is a gesture towards remembering that beautiful Advent wreath my mother always made for us.

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Every family has its own cherished customs.  Our expressions of Christmas are as unique as our thumbprint. 

And in the spirit of sharing our unique expressions, I offered a Holiday Wreath Challenge this year for anyone willing to share photos or a post about the wreathes and decorations you have created this year.

One of the first responses came from Jenny, who hosts the One Word Photo Challenge on her photography blog.  Jenny created a beautiful wreath from the clay she uses to construct her amazing miniature scenes.

Jenny's beautiful wreath, handmade from clay.

Jenny’s beautiful wreath, handmade from clay.

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Please visit Jenny’s post to see how she constructed her wreath, step by step.

Then a dear friend and neighbor shared photos of the wreath she made around Thanksgiving time for her front door.

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Wreath by Farrokh

Wreath by Farrokh

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The berries came on a vine she found in the New Town area while shopping one day in mid-November.  She was amazed to find them lying on the sidewalk under a tree.

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wreath F1

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I’ve since found the same vine in the same area, but don’t know its name.  It makes for such a beautiful wreath of multicolored berries  mixed with cones.  An unexpected gift from nature; so beautifully used!

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wreath F3

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It was several weeks more before Eliza Waters shared photos of her Christmas wreathes.

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Eliza

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Eliza lives in Massachusetts, and has already enjoyed snow.  In fact, snow over Thanksgiving weekend brought down some large branches of Balsam Fir which she salvaged to use in a whole series of gorgeous Christmas decorations, along with pine and pine cones.  Please visit her post to see them all. 

Next, Barbara Scott, who lives in Amelia County, Virginia shared photos of her elegant Christmas decorations.  Barbara and her husband have breathed new life into a grand Virginia country home.  She has used Blue Spruce, sent by a friend along with Magnolia and other evergreen materials in her garden to craft several stunning arrangements indoors and out.

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Barbara

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These are pure eye candy, so please take time to enjoy Barbara’s posts.

Speaking of “eye candy,” you may also enjoy seeing photos Chris VanCleave, The Redneck Rosarian, posted of some stunning Christmas arrangements featuring red roses and red poinsettias.  Gwennie, at Gwennie’s Garden has also pulled together some elegant and lovely Christmas decorations.  She and I share a love for luminous blue glass, which she has used  so beautifully here.

It always fascinates me to see how friends and loved ones celebrate Christmas, and what is important to their joy each year.

I love exploring trees full of antique ornaments, and seeing the keepsakes friends bring out to enjoy each December.

I like tasting cherished family recipes and trying new concoctions with chocolate, nuts, and fruit.

And I’m always fascinated with the wreathes, door decorations, and light displays which brighten up the neighborhood in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

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December 17, 2014 wreath 004

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It brings us full circle. 

We close the year by re-visiting those things which bring us joy and comfort. 

We reach out to those people we hold dear. 

And we celebrate all things bright and beautiful in this season of light.

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Woodland Gnome 2014

 With love and appreciation to everyone who contributed to this post.

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My front door this December, decorated with bits from our garden and wooden birds.

Our  front door this December, decorated with bits from our garden and wooden birds.

By the Numbers

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

12/13/14.  Have you noticed the date today?  My partner tells me this date won’t repeat this century.

Our world is structured by numbers in so many ways.  Even the ancients explored the mysteries of number, and expressed their understanding through architecture, music, sculpture, and engineering those monuments which have survived for centuries or more to intrigue us still today.

And this wonderful technology we use is all based on numbers.  Not that I understand binary code. 

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

Frankly, it seems like modern day “magic” to type this on my computer and know that a friend in Belgium, Indonesia, or Australia can read it as quickly as my friends down the street.  And what pure pleasure to come to my computer at any hour of the day or night and enjoy photographs and ideas  just posted from people all over the planet!

 

December 3, 2014 CW wreathes 074

 

I began this morning by sharing photos of the dragonfly which visited LiJiun’s garden, with my partner.  It brought back such warm memories of the time I spent photographing dragonflies in our garden this summer.  (Dragonflies don’t startle easily, and don’t mind having their photos taken, I’ve found.)

Now in the WordPress Community, the link I just created for you to see LiJiun’s photos is called a “pingback.”  WordPress bloggers frequently create these to link the reader to another interesting blog we want to share with you for some reason.  And up until recently, they’ve always worked just fine. 

And part of the way they work includes sending a message back to the other blog’s author, so they are aware of the link you’ve created.

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

I’ve asked fellow bloggers who want to participate in the Holiday Wreath Challenge to just create one of these “pingbacks” in their own post about wreathes, so I know they are participating.  Then I’ll include  links back to their blog  in a post early next week;  so we can all find and enjoy one another’s photos of the wreathes we’ve made this year.

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

And then last night, my friend Barbara sent me a message in the comments  about her beautiful post.  And she had a link in her post back here to Forest Garden.  But no pingback ever turned up.

And that is when I realized that the pingbacks aren’t working properly on WordPress in general.

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

Some of us have been aware that WordPress pingbacks haven’t worked properly for some of their own challenges in recent weeks.  But now I realize that pingbacks aren’t working at all…. and probably haven’t been for some time now.

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

It’s all in the numbers….  My guess is that the volume of traffic has grown so much on WordPress in general, that the sheer number may have overwhelmed this part of the system.  But that is only my guess.

But it leads me to wonder whether I might have missed some of your posts about your wreath and holiday decorations…..

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

If you have posted, and created the pingback I suggested to join in, just know that I didn’t get it.  Please follow up with an email or a link in the comments.  I’ve responded back to everyone whose posts I’ve found thus far.

I hope you are planning to share in this holiday wreath challenge. 

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

What fun if we could travel all around the world sharing the beauty of the season with one another, through the magic of the internet and our vibrant blogging community.

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

If you have already posted, please just send me your link (again) even though you created that “pingback.”    If you plan to post sometime this weekend, please just send me a comment or email with your link.

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

If you don’t have your own blog, you can still join in.  Just attach your photos to an email.  Please tell me know whether it is OK to use your name and location in the photo credit.

The excitement builds little by little all through December.  Each day brings us closer to the beauty and fun of the Christmas season.

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

Please watch for a compilation post of photos of all your beautiful creations, and links to your posts about them,  by next Wednesday, 12/17/14.  

Let us all share in the joy and beauty of the season.

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Woodland Gnome 2014

woodlandgnome@zoho.com

 

 

 

Decorating for December

A handmade wreath for sale at The Homestead Garden Center in Williamsburg, VA.

A handmade wreath for sale at The Homestead Garden Center in Williamsburg, VA.

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The first Christmas lights are shining on nearby homes and businesses.  Trees are illuminated with tiny white lights on Duke of Gloucester Street, and white candle lights fill the windows in Williamsburg.  It is such a welcome sight to see them glowing in the early evening twilight.

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The Homestead Garden Center on Saturday offered so many beautiful decorations for Christmas.

The Homestead Garden Center  offers so many beautiful decorations for Christmas.

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And we have begun decorating for the holidays.  Saturday afternoon we visited the Homestead Garden Center to select our tree and admire the gorgeous wreathes the Patton family have created this year.

They not only offered handmade wreathes and garlands, they also had a great selection of fresh greenery for customers making their own evergreen decorations.

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December 1, 2014 christmas 004

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Some friends and I spent Sunday afternoon decorating our community center for Christmas.  We hung wreathes, decorated our gargantuan tree, and filled the windowsills with candles and greenery.

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A friend is well known in our community for her beautiful floral arrangements, and fills our windowsills with fresh Magnolia and white candles..

A friend who  is well loved in our community for her beautiful floral arrangements fills our windowsills with fresh Magnolia and white candles..

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It was a warm and sunny afternoon with light pouring in from the many windows.  What a beautiful day for coming together to decorate!

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December 1, 2014 christmas 021

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We were so appreciative for the good weather!

I used the warm and dry weather today to begin decorating the front of my parents’ home.  We could work at a leisurely pace in perfect comfort.   No frost bitten fingers or toes for us!

I’ve made wreathes and hung lights many years in freezing, wet weather.  This weekend’s warmth has given us all a head start on our decorating plans!

I topped off their bird feeders before I left.  The weather turns back  tomorrow to a more seasonal chill.

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December 1, 2014 christmas 003

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Have you made your wreath yet?  I made two on Saturday evening.  My neighbor donated fresh Magnolia leaves, and I used cedar branches and herbs from our yard.   We brought home the bottom branch trimmings from several Christmas trees, including our own.  The whole house was filled with the most wonderful fragrances as I constructed the first of this season’s wreathes. 

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Rosemary, which goes into all of the evergreen wreathes I construct.

Rosemary, which goes into all of the evergreen wreathes I make.

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I hope you will send me photos of the wreathes you construct this year, or create a post about your own wreathes and send me a link.  I plan to pull all of the photos and links together after December 13, and share them all in a great Christmas blog hop.

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December 1, 2014 christmas 035

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Christmas is in the air, and excitement is building.  Please create something beautiful for the season, and have a great time doing it!

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December 1, 2014 christmas 024

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2013

Colonial Williamsburg, 2013

Holiday Wreath Challenge

Holiday Wreath Challenge

Last year's creation.

Last year’s creation.

I love making holiday wreathes.

Wreathes date back millennia as one of our most ancient floral decorations.

They symbolize eternity.  Wreathes, as perfect circles, have no beginning and no end.

They symbolize the circular progression of the seasons;  our Earth’s orbit around the sun.

Traditionally made from cut greens, they symbolize eternal life.

Wreathes have been given as trophies to the victor.  Wreathes have been hung around the necks of horses, worn as a head dress, hung on front doors, used as table centerpieces, and sent as gifts.

Wreathes may be made of living plants, cut greens, vines, straw, wire, cloth, paper, plastic, porcelain, or fruit.

This week, I’ve been  planning and sourcing materials for  a set of wreathes which I’ll construct later in the month.

And I am interested in seeing what wreathes you make, this holiday season, as well.

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And so I’m issuing a “Wreath Challenge” to my community here at Forest Garden.

Post a photo of a wreath you make this holiday season  by December 13.   Tag your post, “Holiday Wreath Challenge,” and include a link back to this post.

Please let me know in the comments that you plan to participate so I can be watching for your post.

I’ll pull together a “holiday blog hop” of all the posts you create.

Your post can show how you constructed the wreath and describe the materials you used, or can simply include a photo.  It would be great for you to describe your wreath and explain why you chose the materials you did.

November 29 Thanksgiving 010

In fact, for this Holiday Wreath Challenge, there will be two separate categories of wreathes. 

One category will be of wreathes made entirely of natural materials.

There is a strong tradition in Colonial Williamsburg of fresh, living wreathes hung on each building.   Visitors come from all over the world each December to view these unique wreathes.

Made entirely of fresh, living materials, our “della Robbia” wreathes include: evergreens, fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts and cones, feathers, herbs, seed pods, leaves and twigs, shells, and dried flowers.  

The wreathes often include symbols of a particular person or trade.  Since they are made from whatever is close at hand, they are very personal and use materials in novel ways.

A della Robbia wreath displayed in Colonial Williamsburg in December of 2013.

A della Robbia wreath displayed in Colonial Williamsburg in December of 2013.

The della Robbia wreathes displayed each year in Colonial Williamsburg are inspired by engravings  of 18th Century Virginia holiday decorations, and are made only from materials available in the 18th Century.

Ribbons traditionally are not used on these wreathes.

Colonial Williamsburg, 2013

Colonial Williamsburg, 2013

A second category will be for wreathes which include modern man-made materials.

If your wreath includes ribbons, floral picks, Christmas ornaments, and other fabricated items it will fall into this other category.

You may use any materials you like to enter a wreath in this group, and may be as creative and unconventional with your  wreath as your imagination allows.

Many of the wreathes I've made over the years begin with grapevines.  This one includes silk ivy and  porcelain birds.

Many of the wreathes I’ve made over the years begin with grapevines. This one includes silk ivy and porcelain birds.  I can keep this one and use it year to year.

I’ve included a few links to inspire you and get you started with your own wreath making:

Step by step instructions on constructing an evergreen wreath maybe found here, along with photos of a wreath I made last year.

The history of wreathes, and more photos of wreathes I’ve made are here.

A tour of della Robbia wreathes from Colonial Williamsburg may give you some ideas. (Two separate links)

Wreathes and wreath bases are offered at our Homestead Garden Center.  The staff has already begun work towards the hundreds of hand made wreathes they will sell this season.

Wreathes and wreath bases are offered at our Homestead Garden Center. The staff has already begun work towards the hundreds of hand made wreathes they will sell this season.

Now, I feel as though I’m leaving some of you out.

Some of my blog visitors don’t have a blog of their own.  You might want to share your wreath, but not know how to do it.

And I want you to include you, too. 

So for you non-bloggers, please email photos of your finished wreath to me at :  woodlandgnome@zoho.com  and I will include photos of your wreathes in my post.  Please tell me in your email whether I may use your name and where you live.

The Homestead Garden Center, last December.

The Homestead Garden Center, last December.  Each live Christmas tree  has its own little water dish to keep it fresh until it is sold.

Ready or no, here the holidays come, once again.

Whether you love them or endure them, they are as perennial as mosquitoes in a Virginia summer.  So lets just decide to enjoy them this year, plan ahead, and have some fun. 

I hope you will accept my challenge to make a beautiful wreath for yourself this year, and share it with the rest of us.

Who knows, you might have so much fun that you decide to make a bunch of them!

Colonial Williamsburg, 2013

Colonial Williamsburg, 2013

Woodland Gnome 2014

 

A Walk About

The Camellia in full bloom along my driveway, setting out for a walk about the nieghborhood.

The Camellia in full bloom along our own driveway, setting out for a walk about the neighborhood.

 

Last evening was the perfect everything for a walk about the neighborhood.

When I set out in late afternoon it was  clear and sunny; not too hot or too cold.

October 25, 2014 fall color 012

All in all it was the perfect opportunity to get out and see the wider world beyond our own garden, and I had the time to enjoy it.

The roses beside our driveway have come into bloom again.

The roses beside our driveway have come into bloom again.

 

My first destination was the home of friends.  A friend and I were splitting a bag of daffodil bulbs, and I had a delivery to make.

October 25, 2014 fall color 006

From there, I made my way down the quiet streets of our neighborhood towards the pond.  Families were out walking their dogs and spending time with children.

Looking across the pond, the homes are still mostly hidden by trees.

Looking across the pond, the homes are still mostly hidden by trees.

The light faded quickly in this late October sky, and I wanted to make it to the Creek before sunset.

Down another friends’ driveway one finds the dusty pine needle covered path across an earthen dam separating our pond from the creek.

The path is heavily wooded.

The path is heavily wooded.

Trees have grown here on both sides of the path, making it harder to see through to the water.  Birds and squirrels chatter at the intrusion into their private world.  I could hear the voices of children in the distance.  The homes ringing the pond are still mostly hidden behind the trees.

October 24, 2014 walk 003

It is nice to be able to walk back here again.  Many of us avoid this path once the weather warms each spring.  There are ticks and chiggers, mosquitoes and who knows what else in the heavy underbrush.

But by autumn, it isn’t quite so hazardous.  Or perhaps with long pants, hat and a jacket it just feels like a safer path to take!

I can see streaks of pink and purple gathering in the sky over the creek as I emerge through another driveway back to the city street.  I cut across past the playground, across the deck, and down towards the dock.  Darkness gathers, and I wonder whether these photos will turn out at all.

October 24, 2014 walk 007

With no street lights, and no flashlight,  it is best not to linger by the water for long.  There is the long climb ahead on the pathway home. 

October 24, 2014 walk 009

Turning my back to the sunset, I head out across the open field and into the shadows of the tree lined street.  Nothing I’m wearing is light or reflective.  It is way too dark here for photos, so my camera goes back into the relative safety of my jacket pocket.

It is a long steep climb.  The exercise feels good, and it reminds me to make this hike a bit more often.

October 24, 2014 walk 008

And not a single car passes on this leg of the journey.  No children’s voices sing out, no dogs bark, and no other walkers call greetings.

An occasional lighted window gives the only evidence of neighbors at home along the way.  Most are probably out for dinner on this Friday evening.

The glow of lamplight greets me as I near my own driveway once again.  My partner has turned on every outside light to greet me.

But even that pales in comparison to the sky, which has turned a fiery orangey pink in the space of only a few minutes.  I can see it again now, above my neighbor’s roof line as I turn towards home.  What beauty!

In another few weeks, once the leaves have fallen, the sky will open up to us once again at sunset.  For now we peek between the trees and above the neighbors’ roofs, basking in the reflected glow of it in the garden.

And I’m basking in the peace of it all.

I made it back home before dark settled completely across the community, knowing this should become a part of my routine during these gorgeous autumn days.

 

Robin challenged those of us who follow her blog to take a walk and post about it. 

This challenge is called “Walktober.”  Robin will gather up all of these posts, and publish links, so we can go along with one another to the interesting and beautiful places we have all visited. 

I hope you will follow the link back to Robin’s “Breezes at Dawn” blog to join her for her walk on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

Shortly, I’ll publish a link back to all of the “Walktober” posts so you can come along, too.

 

October 25, 2014 fall color 013

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Walktober  by Eliza Waters

 

Wonderful Walktober Walks by Robin, Breezes at Dawn

Blog Tour

Eliza Waters, author, gardener, and naturalist, invited me to participate in a blog tour of writers reflecting on their own writing process. You will find Eliza’s blog wonderfully illustrated with photos of her Massachusetts garden and peppered with her wit and wisdom. Eliza has become a treasured friend and correspondent over the last several months, and I hope you will take a moment to read her reflections on writing and life.

 

A spider makes its beautiful web in my garden,; a reminder of the beauty and complexity of life.

A spider works its intricate web in our garden; a reminder of the beauty and complexity of life, and the necessity of dinner.

 

I would suggest that writers are obsessed, not trained. For some of us, an idea or turn of phrase lodges itself into our mind and repeats itself, like a squeaky hinge, until we begin to write it.

Once we write down those initial words, more begin to flow in a trickling stream of consciousness. One image elicits the next, and ideas fit together into some sort of structure.

I’m often surprised at how these thoughts develop and transform; linking to something I’ve recently read or seen or heard; and a message takes shape which was unseen at the beginning.

On a good day….

 

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This need to write started when I was very young.  I was often writing in the margins of a composition book while an oblivious teacher conducted class on some very different topic. They must have assumed I was taking copious notes. But I was writing verse, and the whole process of composition and editing carried over in spare moments through the course of a day or two until I knew it was completed.

The pile of finished work accumulated and by junior high a sympathetic teacher made a friend and me editors of a school literary magazine. Writing, and writing friends, carried me through grade school and into college.   I continued to edit various publications over the years.  Finally I had the opportunity to work  with young writers during my own teaching career.

A summer spent with the Tidewater Writing Project at ODU offered the opportunity to share my writing with other  teachers; and to hear, and comment on,  theirs.   Writers actively working on their own material make more sympathetic and helpful teachers. We learned how to write with our students and how to work with them as mentors and partners in the process.

A volunteer Viola sprouted from a stray seed.

A volunteer Viola sprouted from a stray seed.

 

And writing is a process. Its roots lie in reflection. Its roots lie in soaking in ideas expressed by others in their music, poetry, fiction, prose, art, and photography. From this rich brew of ideas and close observation of one’s own life, ideas bubble up which need expression.

 

Autumn has appeared down by College Creek.

Autumn has appeared down by College Creek.

It is good to encourage ideas to flow freely in the beginning.

I still keep a legal pad and colored pens on my desk, between me and the computer screen, to capture ideas as they first form. Phrases are pieces of a jigsaw puzzle which must be tried and turned and finally fitted together into a smooth whole.

But once those ideas have been caught into words and captured on paper, one must get down to the business of developing the ideas into something another might want to read.

This is where the art and craft of writing takes over from visionary rambling.

Virginia Creeper on the pine tree has already begun going scarlet in this cool August weather.

Virginia Creeper on the pine tree has already begun going scarlet in this cool August weather.

Frequent visitors to Forest Garden find many different sorts of writing here.

There are essays and poems, how-to posts and quotations.  And there are many photographs of life in our garden and community.

While I sometimes go looking for photos to illustrate an idea, more frequently an idea is sparked by the day’s cache of photos.

I began writing this blog to help other gardeners struggling in similiar  deer-ridden vole-infested, squirrel- bitten shady bits of forest.

I had lists to post and resources to share.  That information remains in the archives.

But the discipline of daily writing brought me back to my own roots as a poet.  And some days now poetry seeps out, other days hard prose.  On a very good day there might be a hint of poetry buried within some useful prose.

 

August 23, 2014 Creek 005

Whether one is writing poetry or prose, good composition is based on research, structure, and refinement.

Questions arise as I’m writing. There is always more to learn about whatever topic, whether the name of a particular plant or the various opinions on how best to prepare a planting bed.

Most of my composition occurs at the computer  with a search engine window open. I look for what others have to say, fact check, spell check, and look up words. I search for quotations on particular topics, examine photographs, check maps, and always research the cultural requirements for plants I might mention. Since much of the writing I publish now is fact based, I try to confirm information from multiple sources as I write.

I found this beautiful wild Hibiscus down by the Creek today, but have not yet identified its species.

I found this beautiful wild Hibiscus down by the Creek today, but have not yet identified its species.

 

“Revising” nearly always begins before the first draft is complete.   I walk away from the work and come back to it later with ‘fresh eyes,” re-reading from the beginning. I want to know that I’m on track to express my thoughts  logically and clearly. I look for “jumps” where more information or a reasonable transition is needed.   I look for tangential wanderings which need deleting.

Deleting is almost as important as writing. I usually  put down too many words, whether it is prose or poetry.   One searches for a simpler, clearer way to put an idea into words  through revision.

This process of revision takes time. The words need to get “cold” sometimes before we can hear our own awkward passages to fix them.   And this is just for the sense and structure of what is written.

The whole process of “editing” is another matter entirely.

 

This exuberant arrangement grows wild on the bank of the James River at Jamestown Island.

A wild garden on the bank of the James River at Jamestown Island.

 

I shiver to think how many students’ papers I’ve read and “edited” over the years.  That critical part of my brain which looks for commas and common misspellings is definitely overactive; and yet I often miss my own errors.

Sometimes I find them on a sixth or seventh reading. Sometimes my partner reads behind me, and finds things I’ve missed.

Yet it remains important to me to make a piece of writing as clean as possible before sharing it. I want my writing “clean” of any distraction which might snag a reader’s attention away from my message, whether that is a factual error, an awkward phrase, or a “typo.”

 

Hibiscus syriacus

Hibiscus syriacus

 

The point of writing is communication: mind to mind, heart to heart, and soul to soul.    It is a way to connect with others across unlimited space and time.

In reading a sutra, I hear the wisdom of a Bodhisattva who lived centuries ago as though we were sitting together over a cup of tea.

 

Replicas of the original Seventeenth Century ships moored at Jamestown.

Replicas of the original Seventeenth Century ships moored at Jamestown.

 

I love the community on WordPress because it allows me to converse in real time with acquaintances in Massachusettes, Malaysia, Australia, Georgia, Brussels and Great Britain, all while sitting here at my desk.

And through these conversations I’ve met talented, fascinating people. I’ve found companions along the way who share my passions and concerns. And I’ve discovered artists and poets, activists and environmentalists, mystics and mothers.

Everyone I’ve encountered is reflecting on their own journey through the words and images they publish.

 

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One friend and fellow traveler, artist, mystic, and writer is Sue Vincent.  Sue, like Tolkien, Lewis, and Rowling; writes about a special world which transcends time. Her journeys through the countryside of England, as recorded in her novels, are an epic quest for lost wisdom and deeper understanding.

Her delightful characters share their experiences and reflections in the sort of archetypes which takes the reader along on a journey of self- discovery.

 

Sue Vincent

Sue shares her own journeys on her blog, and gives us a glimpse of her writer’s world of research, deadlines, and the satisfaction of publication.  She also shares the joys and sorrows of children, friends, and a small dog.

Her exquisite photographs become a meditation beyond words. I hope you will visit Sue’s The Daily Echo, which is the next stop on this blog tour.

 

Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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The Butterfly Net: World Blog Hop by Sue Vincent

Tried and True Approaches For the Time-strapped Writer by Ellen Shriner

Blog Touring by Cynthia Kraak

World Blog Tour by Carolyn K. Boehlke

Subsequent stops on the Blog Tour:

Inner Dreaming- World Blog Hop  by G. Michael Vasey

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