Sunday, December 8, 2013

Pinecone Week Day #1 - Prepping Your Pine Cones if You're the Outdoorsy Type

Welcome to Day #1 of Pine Cone Week, friends!

I love pine cones in Fall and Winter decor. It's always a plus to bring the outside in as a nice reminder that there is still beauty outside even after the leaves have fallen and everything is cold and wet (snow or rain--but we live too close to the coast to ever get GOOD snow. Cue whining about how awesome life is in the summer and how sad and miserable it is in the winter).

A fun fact: even though we live close to the shore, we're also in the southern part of a swell region of Jersey referred to as the Pine Barrens. Where the "pineys" have a culture all their own, and where Jersey Devil lore originated. And guess what else is in the Pine Barrens? Pine trees. For my pine cones.


The best time to start collecting pine cones is mid- to late-Fall, at least where we live. Pine cones are on the ground in abundance.

So, by last week this is what I was working with:

Plus some in a box. And some in bags on the floor. And some already in my house from Thanksgiving.
You can buy your pine cones at the craft store (and they will smell like cinnamon and deliciousness), but if you can get them outside, that means that they are F-R-E-E.

But will require a little extra legwork. Nothing free is every truly free, ya know?

And so, before we jump into the crafty woodland goodness, I thought I'd share some tips on getting your pine cones prepped for their crafting debut if you collect your pine cones outside.

Let's be for reals here for a second: you know if you're picking those beauties off the ground there's a preeeetty good chance you're bringing other outdoorsy inhabitants into your home. And no one likes the surprise of a little buggie climbing out of your pine cone that you already spray painted (think spray paint kills tiny pine cone bugs? Experience speaking here, people).

There are two methods of prepping and de-bugging your pine cones for crafting that I've found based on my super scientific research (sup, Google?!). Both of which can be done once you've picked off all the pine needles and cleaned any visible sap-like substances with a q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol.

1.) KILL IT WITH FIRE. Just kidding. Don't really do that. If you do, not only will your destroy your precious pine cones, you'll probably burn your house down. And sue me. So please, don't use fire.

What you can do is bake your pine cones at a really low temperature, like 200 degrees, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Do this for about an hour, but make sure to check every so often to make sure nothing is burning. This is definitely NOT one of those "set it and forget it" types of things. However, if you are cautious this is the quickest way to de-bug your pine cones.

If you're me and want to go the absolute safest but most time-intensive route, you can:

2.) Drown the suckers. Soak and air-dry your pine cones in a mixture of vinegar and water. The moisture will make your pine cones close up. Don't freak out. After a good soaking, lay them out and allow them to air dry. Mine took four days to dry completely--yes, four days--but at the end they had all opened up beautifully again and at no time did I assume any sort of fire risk in my kitchen.

This step is best done in a bucket in your garage or somewhere you don't mind escaping bugs, because I did it in my sink. Trust me when I say the bugs will flee for their little tiny bug lives and the ones that make it out of the sink alive will be crawling all over your counter. UGH. That's horrifying.

There are your options if you're crafting with pine cones outside. Of course, if you want to skip right to the painting and gluing and glittering you're better off hitting up your craft store for the packaged pine cones. But if you're feeling like an adventurous DIY warrior, take the kiddos outside for an afternoon of pine cone hunting. It's pretty fun!

Does anyone have any horror stories about a time they brought the outside in? I can't be the only one who forced tiny bugs to camp out on my kitchen counter.

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