How To Make A Beautiful Birds Nest Wreath

I have a serious fascination with all things avian. Everything about them is beautiful to me: feathers, eggs, and nests. I have also been a lifelong lover of nature and have always collected natural items like rocks, feathers, pinecones, robins egg shells, bugs, and nests. So, if you’re like me, what do you do with your abundance of beautiful and natural treasures? In this case, I made a wreath to display my collection of birds nests!  This is an easy afternoon project, with a few simple tools you can have one of your own in 30 minutes or less!

finished wreath close_1
Finished wreath

Before we get started, I’d like to take the time to acknowledge that some species of birds do in fact reuse their nests from year to year, and though a nest seems like a simply crafted object to us, it represents a great deal of toil for a bird. When selecting nests for this project, please ensure your nests are truly abandoned before removing them. You can also use man-made nests found at your local craft shop. It has taken me a few years and help of family and friends to collect enough nests for this project. My finished wreath is about 20 inches in diameter and uses 12 nests of various sizes. One of these nests is very special to me; a bird made it out of the mane and tail hair from my horse Doc, who we lost in 2008.

Also, if you are at all concerned about any creepy crawlies that may be lurking on your nests, simply put your collection in a plastic bag, tie it up, and pop it in the freezer for about a week.

You will need a few tools:

• A wire or grapevine wreath base
• Enough nests to go around your base
• Florists’ wire
• Wire cutters
• Hot glue (optional)
• Spray shellac or sealer of your choice
• Plastic to cover your work area in if you are making this project indoors, since you will lose little pieces of nest here and there

grapevine wreath base
Grapevine wreath base

I chose a grapevine wreath base that I purchased at my local craft store; it is about 20 inches in diameter and cost about $4.

threading
Thread wire through nests & secure.

Start by cutting your florists wire long enough to go around your base, with enough extra to twist the wire together in the back to secure it. Then, push the wire through the nest and secure it to the wreath base. If you would like, you can use hot glue to place the nest on the base and then secure it with the wire. Continue attaching each nest individually until you complete the wreath.

triming

Trim the excess wire on the back of the wreath with wire cutters.

Finish by spraying the wreath with 3-4 coats of shellac or your choice of clear sealer or leave it natural if you desire!

Finished Wreath_1

Your wreath is ready to hang and enjoy! You can display this wreath indoors or outdoors, though I recommend keeping it indoors or hung in a covered place such as a porch to prevent the weather from damaging it.

How To Make Mitten Keepers

Our family is going to see The Lights Before Christmas at the Toledo Zoo! We can’t wait to begin this new tradition! Full disclosure: I’m probably way more excited about this than my kids.  Christmas is my favorite, the lights are breathtakingly beautiful, and it just so happens to be the location of my husband and I’s first date! The only thing that could make it better would be snow, and that wish is coming true — the first snow storm of the season is underway as we speak. While I love the cold and snow, I have to make sure my little ones are toasty warm. So, I gave their muddy little coats and snow pants a good wash, along with their Elmer Fudd hats, and I realized I didn’t have a way to make sure they didn’t lose their mittens on our grand adventure.

finished mitten keepers
Two pairs of mitten keepers!

So, I whipped these little “mitten keepers” up! I already had everything I needed in my sewing basket; all I had to do was take some measurements… ha! In case you didn’t know, trying to measure a toddler’s wingspan is pretty near impossible. I held arms out; my husband measured…We got close enough. And they are absolutely perfect!  In hindsight we could have just measured their coats, but what is life without the challenge?

Materials_1
Materials

Project Time: 5 minutes

What you will need:

• Twill tape or ribbon, cut to the desired length (for my two year old’s, I used 34 inches. To measure, hold arms out and measure wrist to wrist, this will give you the appropriate length.)
• A two-pack of suspender clips. (These run around $3 a pair. I purchased a bulk lot from Amazon.com for roughly the same amount)
• Straight pins
• Sewing machine

pinned clips
Clips pinned on

Begin by cutting the twill tape or ribbon to your desired length. Then, run the tape through the loop on the suspender clip and pin it in place. Give yourself about an inch of overlap to sew.

sewing
Sewing on the clips

Sew a straight line, and then back-stitch it. Move over about a 1/4 inch and sew another straight line and back-stitch once more. Repeat on the other side. Trim your strings.

safe
Mittens safe and sound

Now, run them through your little one’s coat sleeves and clip their mittens on! I think I might even make myself some, because nothing is worse than having to take off your glove when working outside, thinking you stuck it in your pocket, but finding instead that it fell into the mud or, even worse, the manure! Next time I make these for my boys, I plan to make the length adjustable so that they can grow with them. These ones will last quite a long time, though; it wont be long until our youngest can use them, and I have a new niece that could use them soon too!

Preserving a Hornets Nest

Before I became a beekeeper I never paid too much attention to wasps and hornets. But then I saw the body of bald-faced hornet hanging out of one of my beehives. The honeybees had attacked and decapitated her and were in the process of pushing the body out of the hive. I did some research and learned about hornets’ unique life cycles and behaviors. Even though they have spelled disaster for more than one of my beehives, they quickly gained my respect. For one thing, they build amazingly beautiful homes. You have probably seen them hanging in the woods, or near your home though I hope not!

A Collected Hornets Nest, look at those swirls and rings of different colored paper!

Bald-faced hornets (aka: bull wasps or blackjackets) are a species that is prolific in my area and across North America. They aren’t hornets at all, but a type of large wasp. They are big, black in color, and have dabs of white on their abdomens and heads. They build large, paper nests typically high in trees or on structures. Although these nests resemble the “beehives” from Winnie The Pooh, you won’t find any honey in them. While they do collect some sugars from fruit and flowers for feeding their babies, they are mainly carnivorous and can be found eating meat or other insects. Their queen emerges from her burrow underground in the spring and begins constructing a small nest and laying eggs to build up her colony. Soon her offspring will help her build the nest, and she will retreat to lay eggs for the entirety of the season. In the fall, the queen will burrow underground or under a log, leaving the rest of her brood to freeze and die. The queen will start constructing a new nest in the spring; this leaves the previous nest vacant and available for collecting.

nest in tree
A Hornets Nest Hanging 30 Feet Above Ground. Sometimes they can be dangerous to collect…

The best time to collect a nest is after several hard frosts — this ensures that the inhabitants are dead and eliminates the possibility of getting stung. In most instances, hornets nests are located very high in trees. Please take extreme care and caution when collecting a hornets nest. You will most likely need to cut some branches around the nest to get it out. We like to leave the sticks and branches intact at a length because we like the way it looks.

After you have successfully collected your hornets nest, it’s a good idea to place it in the freezer for a week or two, especially if you are concerned about remaining, living hornets. Your nest may have a slightly foul scent to it; this is the result of remaining larvae and eggs rotting. If this is the case, leave it sitting in the garage or barn for a couple of weeks. We have done this a few times and have never experienced this … however, we do have very cold winters in our area.

The paper nest will last indefinitely in its natural state, though you can spray it with a coat or two of shellac if you wish. Hang in the desired location with clear fishing line, and you will have a conversation starter for years to come!