By Vicky Babcock
Consider the pinecone. While not a viable food source for humans, pinecones are invaluable to birds and mice that eat the tender seeds when other sources of food are scarce. Dried pinecones make great fire starters, with or without candle wax. They are a crafters choice for wreaths, picture frames and candle rings. I’ve even seen them used to create charming baskets. A pinecone, a milkweed pod (split in two halves) and an acorn make a rustic angel for your tree.
Pinecones added to your greenery create interesting focal points and pinecones are the main base in many winter potpourris. Pinecones open when they are dry and close when they are wet, allowing them to distribute seed at the most opportune time for maximum travel. This phenomenon is the base for an interesting puzzle. While a pinecone is wet (tightly closed), push it into a narrow necked jar and allow it to dry. As it dries, it will open and expand, making it impossible to remove from the jar whole. Ask your kids if they know how you managed to get it into the jar.
Pinecone cows were a popular toy back in the day. These were made simply by sticking matchsticks into pinecones for legs. In parts of the world they are still popular. In Finland there is a fairground with statues of pinecone cows for children to play on.
Nest a candle in a bowl of pinecones for a charming centerpiece. For an added touch, add a few glass ornaments or a string of dried cranberries. Never leave a candle unattended, as pinecones are extremely flammable.
An unopened pinecone is a symbol of virginity. Conversely, pinecones are symbolic with fertility and were often carved into bedposts as an aid to conception. The pinecone is considered a luck charm, favorable influences, protection from harm and sexual power. There are those who believe it promotes healing and inhibits negative influences.
Pinecone Firestarters are easy to make and create charming gifts for those who have fireplaces. Gather pinecones and allow them to dry. Collect old candles or crayons for the wax.
Other optional ingredients:
Salt substitute—violet flame
Melt wax in the top of a double boiler. This is necessary as wax is extremely flammable—do not heat directly on the stove. If you would like to create colored flames, mix sawdust with desired color ingredient (see above). Dip dried pinecones in the melted wax, then dip into sawdust mixture. These can be given in a pretty basket or a recycled onion or orange bag. Add a bit of greenery and a bow, and you have a charming gift for a housewarming or for Christmas. Just be sure the recipient has a fireplace.
The Pueblo story of the pine tree as told by the Quères is a detailed (and somewhat disturbing) tale in which a witch is tricked into eating magic pine seeds. The seeds sprout in her belly and turn her into a great pine tree that sways in the wind and moans and sobs forever—as all her pine children do to this day.
Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue. For more information call 616-696-1718. Like us on facebook for updates.