Composting Pumpkins & Stuffing Stuffies
Last night, our modest community experienced our first Halloween costume parade event. Though only a handful of our 50 homeowners put up decorations, those that did, did it with delightful gusto and exuberance. Rather than have door-to-door trick or treating, treat tables were set out near the most decorated homes, offering treat bags, light sticks and small toys to costumed kids. We invited our neighbors from nearby condos to join us, and someone unknown posted the event on social media, so we had a larger response than anticipated. Fortunately, the result wasn’t overwhelming this year, but so many people asked about next year that we realized that we were at risk of setting ourselves up for repeat performances; on Bainbridge Island, anything fun tends to get turned into an annual event. What have we done?
This morning, the debate was about both commitment (are we obliged to do this again?) and about holiday decor protocol; how long can seasonal decorations be left in place? When does something fun and cute start to look dirty and neglected? Though our pumpkins and gourds aren’t going away yet, I immediately removed the clingy, stretchy fake spider webbing beloved of local kiddos. For one thing, I don’t want birds to get tangled in this stuff. For another, once it gets wet, it’s un-recyclable trash. If gathered up quickly enough, this fine-spun polyester fiber makes fine stuffing for soft toys-in fact, it’s basically the same thing as the commercial stuffing, but differently extruded. Fortunately, all of our fluffy stuff is now clean of leaves, dry, and safely repackaged for stuffy-making. Unfortunately, there are ragged, tattered sheets of this stuff all over the neighborhood, the island, the county, the state, the country. Ack!
Sustainable Holiday Decorations
I’ve never used the fake spider webbing before but I admit that I got suckered by youthful enthusiasm. Regrettable, right? However, I’ve already started developing patterns for crocheted webs and knitted spiders for next year. Made of cotton, linen, wool and fluffy angora (for spider legs, of course), our future decorations will be usable for many years to come. When at last they expire, they can be composted, just like the pumpkins and squash and long threaded swags of colorful fall foliage we make. As long as we use natural fiber twine or thread to make leafy or floral or evergreen swags, the whole business can be tossed in the compost or the green waste bin when colors fade and needles drop.
With a little advanced planning, we can extend this same rethinking to other kinds of decorations. When my grandkids wanted some plastic holiday decorations with long, fluttering ribbons, we made our own versions with cardboard, colored paper and crepe paper streamers. The kiddos always enjoy making things, so I keep their craft table stocked with supplies and rarely need to suggest anything to make, as they are always full of more or less practical ideas. I figure anything not dangerous is worth a try, and experimentation is an important life skill. If failures are treated as puzzles to be worked out, some very ingenious solutions may emerge from the (harmless) wreckage.
Living Trees & Edible Decorations
Though my grandkids celebrate the winter holidays at their own home, we have found some lovely ways to decorate around my little home and garden as well. Rather than bringing a cut tree indoors, we decorate living trees with swags of plain popcorn and apple slices. We stuff fat pinecones with natural, unsalted peanut butter and roll them in sunflower seeds we saved from our towering flowers. This is a super sticky, fairly messy process so it’s wise to have some wet rags, a washable table covering, and a large drop cloth in place before the revels begin.
Wild Bird Seed Cookies
5-6 cups wild bird seed mix
1 cup organic coconut oil
1 cup organic natural peanut butter (no sugar, no salt)
Put coconut oil and peanut butter in a bowl in the oven with just the oven light on and the door closed for about half an hour to soften. Lightly oil the inside of your cookie cutters, then place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Mix as many seeds as possible into the softened oil and peanut butter, then pack cookie cutters with the mixture all the way to the top (they’ll be about an inch thick). Now insert a few toothpicks bunched together or a small dowel into each cookie to make a hole for a string to hang the cookies with. Let the cookies firm up completely before removing them from the cutters. If your house is warm, try putting the baking sheet outside for half an hour or so to firm up. Thread the cookies with natural fiber string or yarn and hang them on an outdoor tree where birds can get them but cats can’t (important where cats are allowed to roam outside). Depending on the size of your cookie cutters, this makes about 8-10 small cookies or 4-6 larger ones.