Monday, January 3, 2011

A Handmade Christmas

Jake and Buck with our Homegrown Christmas tree
Well, Christmas is past and I can now speak freely about our Handmade Christmas without spilling the beans.

Buck and I were having a hard time with The Christmas Spirit here at the Homestead. As I pondered the reasons that this season was not as cheery as it normally is, I came up with the idea that a homemade Christmas would go a long ways toward the feeling we were trying to capture this dreary winter.
First we had to clear this idea with all the extended family. They had concerns about whether they had the time to make something or if they had any talent to make anything. We all decided it was a Handmade Christmas instead. That gave others the option of going to the Fair Trade boutique or the Saturday Market and purchasing gifts that were homemade by someone.

By the time this was all decided, there were only 4 weeks left before Christmas! So Buck and I got cracken'.

One of the things we could not create at home were essentials (clothes for 4 boys) for "Christmas Family". Christmas Family is a family in need because of domestic violence. Our very cool Dentist had a "Gift Tree" for them. We did the shopping for the Christmas Family first and we relearned a couple of things. We were reminded how crazy it is to shop this season but, most importantly, we remembered that helping others in need is the very best way to get The Christmas Spirit.
Yes, that's right. In true Oregon fashion, sunshine is accompanied by rain.
With our hearts a bit lighter, we put our hands and minds to the task of a Handmade Christmas.

I have, over the years, built a decent collection of tools and it definitely paid off this year. Besides all the construction here at the Homestead, these tools made Santa's Workshop a much nicer place for the elves!

I had been "cherry picking" the cedar fence boards
at Home Depot all summer. Every time I had to go there, I would just grab a couple of nice, clear boards and then I put them in my lumber stack to dry. I didn't really have a plan for them, but I knew I wanted to do something with cedar, maybe a sauna or the kitchen back splash someday.
As I pondered my homemade gift options I remembered these boards and that I had bought a really nice book on bird houses a couple of years ago. The first surprise for me was that I could actually lay my hand on the bird house book and the second surprise was that both the Bat house and the House Wren house were the exact dimensions of my collected fence boards. I knew what I was making.
Home from University, June helped me assemble all those bird and bat houses a couple days before Christmas.

I also have a vast collection of old and new beads, so I decided I would make bracelets and earrings for those who wear them.

For Buck it was a little more straight forward. He has a perfect on again off again hobby- carving spoons. His problem was that the spoons are not all that fast to carve and they also need aged wood to be carved from. It was taking him a long time to finish a couple of spoons and then one split.
I suggested he try some of my tools to speed up the process- my band saw and my belt sander. He came back into the trailer beaming. Days of work were now done in a few hours. He could get a rough blank with the electric tools, then do the fine hand work. We also remembered that there was some apple wood up on the hill from a severe pruning we had done two years ago. Now Buck was all set.
Some of Buck's Christmas spoons. The top one is a snake on the back and a spoon on the front- very cool. We named it the "Snakey Tasting Spoon"
I set to work using my little planer to smooth the cedar boards and created an assembly line of sorts for myself. I got 14 bird houses and 5 bat houses cut out and sanded. It only took about a dozen of my boards.

Buck and I migrated, for the holiday, back to our old house where my Dad lives.

As the holiday unfolded, it became very clear that everyone else had a really great time with their gifts too. Our son Jake flew up from LA, preceded by 2 very heavy Fed Ex packages. When he arrived, he opened the packages and revealed handmade corn packs (for heating in the microwave and soothing sore muscles) and an array of cooking ingredients for "making us fat".  And he did.
One of Jake's many delicious pies, cakes and cookies.
 Then June gave me my Christmas gift early. It is a 5 foot diameter mobile made of origami Russian literature. It is so peaceful to have slowly wheeling and gliding in the living room. Like a really good fish aquarium, but I don't have to feed it.
A close-up of the origami mobile
June and I proceeded to assemble the houses outside on the deck, it thankfully remained dry while we worked. Jake and Buck went to the end of the yard where a good friend had haphazardly planted a Doug Fir a few years ago. It was not a good place for a tree and had been slated, with our friends blessing, as a future Christmas tree. This was the year. Buck and Jake chopped it down with a dull axe (couldn't find the good one) with the help of Gimpy McGimperson and I laughed until I cried.
The tree is an odd shape, but hey, it's homegrown!
We decorated sparingly and then we topped it with the traditional (for us) Christmas Crow!
Rings and Pirate knives
It would not do to skip over the amazing gift I received from my Brother In-law. A Masterpiece of woodworking!

We wish you A Happy and Prosperous New Year from everyone here at the Homestead!


  1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE those spoons!! It looks like you all had a wonderful time. And that tractor with the rain and sun picture is classic for here. lol

  2. Thanks Robin. I had a lot of fun making the spoons. It is very satisfying making something so tangible and functional. And yes, that was a pretty spectacular photo op of the rainy tractor. Sometimes it can be so beautiful up here.


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