And it came to pass that my wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, wanted a big green Christmas wreath to hang on our front door. Not a big deal, you say, but could I remember what a balsam wreath looked like after wintering in Florida for 20 years?

A certain Farmer channeled his inner Martha Stewart to make his first balsam wreath in 20 years. Photo courtesy of Robert Skoglund

Even as I write, my best friend’s cheery motor coach and friendly black doggie await us in his Florida backyard. But last March we threw away our plane tickets, packed up and drove home three weeks early with COVID-19 nipping at our heels. And when we compared the track records of our Janet Mills and the Florida governor, the smart money very clearly said we’d be much, much more likely to survive the pandemic by wintering in Maine.

In the late 1940’s and into the ’50s there was big money in making wreaths. Your memory is certainly better than mine, but I think my father got three dollars a dozen.

You couldn’t make wreaths too early in November because they’d dry out and the needles would fall off before Christmas. So it was near Thanksgiving when Father would walk out into the woods with a burlap bag over his shoulder and pick brush. By “brush,” I mean the tips of the branches on fir trees. On the days it wasn’t raining he’d throw bag after bag of brush into the cellar, and when it got dark he’d stand by an old table down there and make wreaths until the brush was gone.

You probably know that there are different kinds of brush. Some fir limbs have needles that are flat and some have needles that stick up in the air. My father wouldn’t use flat brush because wreaths made with flat brush were sickly looking things that were only 2 or so inches thick.

When I started to make my wreath, I looked in the barn for some of Father’s old wreath wire – even though I knew it had rusted apart years ago. When you’d make a wreath, you’d have wire on a small spool that you’d throw into the hole in the center. Father wound his own spools of wire on a bolt about 5 inches long. He’d stick that bolt into a chuck on an electric motor and wind the wire onto that bolt. Now that I think about it, winding wire was a risky business that could cost you a finger or two if you messed up.

When he had a load, he’d take them down to Boston in his ’38 Ford pickup and sell them to a wholesaler at some market or square. The name now escapes me but it might have been Faneuil Hall. (I almost said Scollay Square, but I might be thinking of our senior class trip.)

Sometimes I’d go with him. Route 1 was an adventure before the days of turnpikes. And the $3 a dozen made it well worthwhile.

There might have been a time when a dealer in a truck would come around and buy them at our house, but I’m not sure.

Marsha got the children to cut a few boughs when they were visiting in our backyard the other day, so I was halfway home. I found six or eight wire wreath-hoops in the barn and used one of them. I also found a spool of cow fence wire that is a little stiff but hopefully functional. Making a wreath with cow fence wire is a leather glove procedure.

When I described the operation on Facebook, friend Cindy teasingly said, “Don’t forget the colored balls and sparkle spray.” I replied, “Don’t encourage them. I know they’re out there.”

Marsha put a red ribbon on the wreath and said that I can now nail it on the front door.

Nail it? How about a large round head brass screw carefully inserted into a small pilot hole?

And why the rush to hang up Christmas decorations? Have you noticed how the economics of one holiday quickly crowds out the last one? Wouldn’t it be nice to show a little respect for the Thanksgiving bird? Can’t we wait until his bones and skin have been carried off by the crow friends before we chugalug Christmas toddy?

Am I justified in calling my wreath the pièce de résistance? It fought me every inch of the way

Although it came out pretty good when you consider that I probably hadn’t made a wreath for 70 or so years – and that I had to flop around a large roll of cow fence as I went along.

If the wind ever stops blowing I will hang it from our front door. Please toot in admiration when you drive by.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:
www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html


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