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Environment        < Previous        Next >


Nature Hunt: Make a Fall Wreath


Today's Snack: Here's a fun treat for fall! Do you have a pancake griddle, a measuring cup with a pouring spout, and a basting brush? Let's make Cinnamon Bears:


1 cup prepared pancake mix

C. quick oats (not instant oatmeal, or old-fashioned oats)

1 C. club soda

3 T. sugar

tsp. cinnamon

stick of butter, melted in the microwave

Chocolate chips


Combine the pancake mix, quick oats and club soda in a medium bowl to make a batter. Add a little water if it seems too thick. In a small bowl, mix the cinnamon with the sugar. Add 1 T. of the cinnamon-sugar mix to the batter and stir.

Heat the griddle to medium high, or about 375 degrees. Test it by dropping a few drops of water on the surface. They should "dance" and disappear. Adjust heat if you need to, and test again.

When you're ready, drizzle a little melted butter on the griddle. Immediately after that, start making your cinnamon bears!

To make each bear, scoop up some batter in a measuring cup with a pouring spout. Pour about 2 T. of batter into a round shape on the griddle - that's the bear's body.

Pour about 1 T. for the head. You can drip batter with a spoon at the top and sides to form ears and paws.

Work quickly! In a very short time, you should flip each bear and cook the other side. When done, remove with a spatula and put on a cooling rack.

Take the basting brush and brush each pancake with melted butter. Then sprinkle some cinnamon-sugar on the top. Then add chocolate chips for eyes and noses.

Serve warm with a little sugar-free maple syrup.






One or more large, flat baskets with handles


Old pillowcase


Large bags, perhaps a nylon drawstring one that you can put over your shoulder


Garden clippers or strong scissors


Wear gloves, long sleeves, and long pants


Circular wreath form, available in a craft shop,

or make your own with pliers and a wire coat hanger


Florist's wire


Hot-glue gun



Did you know a lot of people go into the woods in the fall to hunt? Only some don't go for deer or ducks or pheasants - some go for plants!


You can go on a nature hunt to gather materials for a beautiful fall wreath for your home that you can use year after year. A handmade wreath from you, with materials you collected yourself, would make a spectacular gift for someone special with an autumn birthday, or just for fun.


This may be a 2- or 3-day project. You probably will collect the materials one day, make the base of the wreath the next day, and decorate the wreath on another day.


You'll need an adult to drive you and help you make arrangements for your nature hunt. Gathering materials out in nature is called "foraging," and if you follow a few simple rules, you'll have a great time:


1.      Make sure you have permission to forage (pronounced "FOR-ij") from the person who owns the property. Usually, this will be a friend or family member who owns land in the country, so call ahead and ask. They might be able to direct you to some pretty plants, too! Note that most nature centers and state park facilities don't really want you collecting from their land, so beware. Now, if you can stay safely away from the traffic, sometimes you can just drive out into the country a few miles and ask at a farmhouse if you can collect from the many grasses and wildflowers that grow along gravel roads out in the country. The point is, don't just go out and start collecting without permission.


2.      Make sure you or somebody in your group knows what poison ivy and poison oak look like, and avoid these plants at all costs! If your skin is exposed to them, it can make a painful, itchy rash. If you do get this rash, ask a pharmacist for a cream or "wash" that can relieve the symptoms.


3.      The best vines to look for are easy to spot in the fall, because their leaves are the first to turn bright yellow: grapevine and bittersweet. Grapevines can be really long, which will make an even, thick-textured wreath. Bittersweet vines aren't as long, but you can cut a bunch of them as long as you can and bunch them together to form a substantial wreath with those gorgeous gold-into-bright-orange berries. (Watch out - a lot of berries in the fall are poisonous or will make you sick, so don't eat ANYTHING you find on this nature hunt!) You may also find wild forsythia, honeysuckle and thornless raspberry vines. Tug the vine away from the tree, if it's growing on one, and clip into the longest length you can - 6 or 8 or more feet is best. You can gently roll these into a loop, but don't break the vine in the middle. Carry them in a basket or pillowcase.


4.      Shady spots and streambeds can supply some neat-looking moss and fungi, or ferns.


5.      The forest floor should have acorns, pinecones, walnut shells and other interesting small items. You can pick up beautiful leaves you want to save, especially if they are on a short branch or stem to make it easier to include them in your wreath. Adjust your grocery list: you can save your peach and apricot pits after eating the fruit, because they add interest and texture, and include those with your nature "finds."



6.      One of the neatest things to include in a wreath is a milkweed pod. If you can collect these pods in the summer when they're still green and hard, they'll keep their shape best. The ones you collect in the fall, when they've already burst and the seeds have blown away, will be brittle and might break when you try to collect them. Be careful!


7.      If you come to a swampy area, look for cattails!


8.      Roadsides and fields may have goldenrod, Queen Anne's lace, yarrow and other wildflowers. Cut the stem about a foot under the flower head. Because each flower contains seeds for next year, make sure that you leave 90% of any stand of flowers intact, and take away less than 10%. So if there are 10 Queen Anne's Lace flowers, cut only one.


9.      Roadsides and country fields also should have beautiful grasses with feathery seedheads and plumes in the fall. Be sure to cut the stems as tall as you can, to make wreath-making easier.


10. Garden plants in your own home can be added, too. Ask permission, but consider adding a few marigold flowerheads or the pricky centers of purple coneflower for beauty and texture.



When you get home, if you have found a lot of bittersweet, it's best to make that wreath right away before the vine hardens. A bittersweet wreath is so beautiful, it doesn't need any other decorations. Gently pluck off the leaves and discard. Using a plain wire florist's wreath form, simply wrap the bittersweet vines around the form and themselves, patiently twining the ends and wrapping them together. It won't form a perfect circle, but that's part of the charm! Try to even out the bulk of the berries so that they're evenly spaced. Leave it alone for a few days until it stays permanent. You can add a hanging wire and a bow, if you wish, perhaps made out of raffia (looks like strands of straw) or an autumn plaid fabric ribbon. It's optional to spray-coat with clear acrylic. When autumn's over, store your bittersweet wreath in a cool, dry place.


If you found only a little bittersweet, it makes a great addition to a wreath with a base made of something else, including grapevine.


With grapevine as the base of your wreath, it's best to strip off the leaves gently, and soak grapevines overnight in a bathtub of water to make them easy to bend. When you're ready to make the wreath, take them out and let dry for a few minutes on a towel. Then, again using the sturdy wire florist's wreath form, gently wrap the grapevines around it, and each other, in a circle, weaving the vines over and under each other to hold each other in a circular shape. See why it's best to get them as long as you can, because they wrap better? Stay patient so you don't break or bend the vine. If you do, you can discard the broken piece, or sometimes you can intertwine the broken ends so they don't show. Go around and around, and use green florist's wire to secure.


Trim any funny-looking ends that stick out, and dry in the sun or near a heater for a day or so before you decorate.


You probably should have an adult help you with the hot-glue gun, because it can burn your skin. At least, learn how to use one if you do this.


To decorate, lay out all the things that you have available to use. Remember, you don't have to use it all! Some people decorate only one side of a wreath, or the bottom, but you can put your things wherever you want.


First, place the bigger items, such as pods, moss and flowers, where you think you want them on the wreath, and then hot-glue to the base.


Stand back often, as you work, to see any gaps. Use Queen Anne's Lace and moss as "filler" where needed.


Now add the smaller pieces, balancing the colors and textures, 'til it's just the way you like it.


You can lightly spray with clear acrylic, but don't have to.


You can make a hanging loop out of florist's wire.


Even as fall turns into winter, you can preserve the spectacular beauty of autumn in your wreath, and share nature's bounty with your friends and family.



By Susan Darst Williams Environment 08 2009

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