It is the end of December, which means people are getting rid of wreaths, Christmas trees and all things festive. I am always saddened when I have to throw out trees and wreaths because it usually means saying goodbye to the lovely balsam smell that comes with them. If you are like me and you love the balsam smell, here are some cool crafts you can do with balsam branches and needles! If you love the smell of balsam and don’t have a tree or wreath, you may be able to convince a friend to give you a couple of clippings or you could go out looking for balsam fir trees! According to iNaturalist, there are balsam trees in Massachusetts! Of course, don’t go cut down a tree, but even pine trees shed their needles, so chances are if you find a fir tree, there are balsam needles below it! Just be sure to check the rules/guidelines about where you are visiting and if it would be acceptable to forage for some balsam needles!
Clip and dry the needles!
To get the best balsam smell for the longest amount of time, you should cut and dry your needles. This is super simple and step one is to grab some scissors and shred all of your needles into tiny pieces! Needles should at least be chopped in half once to enhance the forest-like aroma. Once the needles are chopped, you will want to dry them. To do this, lay your choppings on a pan and leave them somewhere dry and undisturbed for a couple of days. When you come back to your needles, they should be brittle to touch and fairly easy to snap. Hopefully wherever you put them to dry now has a strong balsam scent! Once you are sure your needles are dry, they should be good to store and smell for a pretty long time! I have a balsam pillow going on four years old that is still very strongly scented.
What you do with your needles next is completely up to you! If you are feeling extra crafty, or want to explore the world of sewing, you can make a balsam pillow with two pieces of fabric. You can also reuse cotton baggies, or jewelry sachets and fill them with your balsam clippings. Possibly the easiest way to fill a room with the smell of balsam is to put all your clippings in a decorative bowl and let the aroma fill the air! However you choose to use your needles will be perfect!
make a weather stick!
The wood of Balsam Fir trees is very responsive to its environment and some of the cell structure in the tree will actually change depending on weather! Specifically, the cells will expand or contract based on the amount of moisture that is in the air. Because of the expanding and contracting of the cells, the trees will actually change shape under different weather conditions. To learn more about how Balsam Firs react to changes in weather, check out this article published in the Farmer's Almanac!
So, how can we harness this prediction tool? Great question! Below are instructions on how to use the power of the balsam fir to create your very own weather stick! This activity is best to do with an already cut down Christmas tree so that you aren’t chopping off branches of trees growing in the wild.
The first thing you’ll want to do is find a branch on your tree that is about ¼” in diameter and cut it from the trunk of the tree. Next, you’ll need to strip the branch completely bare. This means clipping all of the smaller branches that are attached to it off and taking all the needles and bark from it! Once your branch Is stripped, you’ll need to leave it out to dry for a couple of days.
While your branch is drying, you can work on creating a mount for your weather stick. Weather sticks seem to work best if they hang perpendicular somewhere outside, so you want to create a mount that you can attach to a wall or something outdoors. Many people suggest finding a block of wood and drilling a small hole in it that is the same width as your branch. You can then slip the branch in the hole with a bit of wood glue and, viola, you’ve got a weather stick! Don’t have access to a drill? Get creative! The main thing is that your balsam fir stick is free to move about as the weather changes. When you hang your stick, you’ll want to put it upside down from the way it was growing on the tree. It’s most likely that the stick was curved a little bit upwards when It was on the tree, so you’ll probably want to hang it so that it is pointing towards the ground.
After you’ve found a permanent location for your stick, you’ll be able to use it to help you make weather predictions! Whenever your stick is pointing down it means that there is moisture in the air and the possibility of rain and whenever the stick is pointing up it means that there isn’t moisture in the air and the probability of rain is low!
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