Which is why I went out early, the day after Thanksgiving, to the Monticello trail to gather pine cones for a garland. Most of the pine trees are near the bottom of the hill, but I hiked the two miles to the top, hoping for a different species of tree to add variety to my collection. And right near the top, I found a pine with perfect, symmetrical pine cones, only they were all firmly attached to the tree, and the ground beneath it was suspiciously absent of cones. Another collector must have beat me to the spot.
|Perfect but unattainable.|
Most of the people on the trail gave my brown paper shopping bags the side eye, as if they thought I had just looted Monticello of its silver. Is it really that eccentric to pick up pine cones off the ground? You can buy them at Whole Foods--something like $3.00 for a smallish bag, and I need ninety pine cones for a six-foot garland. In the end, I found the mother load of pine cones on a short side trail. I filled both my grocery bags. Two brown paper grocery bags full of pine cones are surprisingly heavy. It's probably only half a mile from the side trail to the parking area on Dairy Barn Rd, but I was DYING by the time I got to my car. It was a pretty day for a walk, though.
The next step is to wash them, which I did in the bathtub. Pine cones come home with a lot of flotsam: pine needles, leaves, dirt, as-yet undiscovered insect species, etc. It took freaking forever to divest my pine cones of all this junk. Next, you bake them at 200 degrees for two hours--to kill the bugs. Despite heaping my roasting pan, and filling a baking pan and a cookie sheet, I had more pine cones than would fit in the oven, and had to do this step in batches. If you choose to do this yourself, note that the pine cones will leak sap all over your pans and it WON'T come off.
|My bath tub, full of pine cones|
I want a green and white garland, so I followed the bleaching process outlined in this tutorial. It calls for a crazy ratio of bleach to water. I tested a small batch, since to do them all at once would mean filling my entire bathtub with bleach. I let them sit overnight, rather than the 24 hours recommended in the tutorial, and got uneven results. Some of the pine cones were bleached, others were still brown. The white pine cones seemed dangerously close to disintegrating so I removed the whole batch from the bleach.
|Bleached and unbleached pine cones side by side|
Then you have to bake them again! (Actually, you're supposed to sit them outside in the sunshine to dry, but hello, it's December. Baking is offered as a faster alternative.) It was 7:00 am and my house--again--became permeated with the smell of damp pine cones, only now with a hint of bleach. One thing is certain, I am NOT bleaching the rest of these things. I abandoned my green and white idea and spray painted some of them with gold rustoleum, and I'm not sure how I feel about them now.
I am already bored with this project and I still have nothing even close to resembling a garland. The only thing to do at this point, is dump the pine cones back into their bags and go to the library and check out a Georgette Heyer novel. Done. And Done. If this thing ever becomes a garland, I will be sure to show you. Do you do any holiday crafts?