By CHRISTINE TAILER
It is that time of year. The city stores are packed with holiday shoppers. I look their way, marvel at the filled parking lots, and happily drive on by.
I know that I am the lucky one. I have just about everything I need here at the farm.
All throughout the day, I look forward to finishing up my chores, dinner dishes done, so I can sit down for an evening of crafting gourd bowls and making wine bottle wind chimes.
The gourds that I am working with now are perfectly dried from two summers past. At the end of the summer, I took them from the garden, and with baling twine wrapped around their stems, hung them up to dry in the tobacco barn. Not a single gourd rotted.
And now, over a year later, all they need is a short soak in a bucket, so that all of the cracked and dried skin can easily slough off. I then look at each gourd, appreciating its shape, and cut off its top on Greg's band saw, leaving sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the shape and personality of the gourd.
I next pull out the seeds and then fill the gourd up with water and let it sit. I am amazed that they really are watertight. Not a drop leaks out, even after a day of soaking, and by that time, the inner layer easily pulls loose with the gentle scrape of a spoon.
This next step is the truly enjoyable part. The evening hours pass and I am completely unaware.
On some of the gourds, I have painted geometric designs. On others, I have used a wood-burning tool.
For two, I drilled small holes around their rims and then wrapped waxed twine through the holes and up over the rim. At the end of the twine, I beaded two dried buckeye nuts that hang down the outside of the bowl. Then, my design work done, I either wax the bowls to a warm burnished tone, or spray them with gloss so that they sparkle and shine.
My next project involves repurposing wine bottles into wind chimes and candle holders. Several years ago, we found a bottle cutter at a craft store. I climbed up into the sugar shed loft and pulled it down.
I am not very good at it, and my odds of a successful cut are one in two. After a gentle score around the bottom third of the bottle, and light tapping, the base hopefully breaks smoothly away, leaving the top for a wind chime and the bottom for a beeswax candle holder.
With patience and wet sandpaper in the bottom of a old shallow baking pan, the sharp rims of the cut halves turn smooth. I have collected old plated silverware that I bend and twist into creative shapes.
I drill holes and hang beaded wires from the holes, then hang the repurposed knife, fork, or spoon from a chain, with a walnut or buckeye clapper in its middle. The top of the chain I then pass up through the bottle and attach to a screw eye that I have twisted into the bottom of a wine bottle cork.
Finally, as I firmly hold the bottle, Greg uses our bottle corker to set the cork securely into the top.
One last screw eye on the top of the cork and the chime is ready to hang outside and gently ring in the wind. The glass really does echo nicely with a deep calming sound.
And the beeswax candles? They are easy to make. I just melt the wax in a huge old pot filled with water. When the wax cools it floats up to the top.
I scrape the debris and scum off of the bottom of the cooled wax. I then "wash" it again, but this time I carefully ladle out wax from the top of the pot and pour it into my wick-ready wine bottle glass bottoms.
The last part of my holiday crafting is to figure out which gift to give to whom. An apartment-dwelling city family would have no place to hang a wind chime, so they will get the gourd bowls.
Those with trees in their yards and front porches will get the wind chimes. And of course, they will all get a beeswax candle and a jar of Straight Creek honey. But please don't tell them. I don't want to ruin their surprise!
Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.