The American Agriculturist is a monthly publication that has been mailed out mostly to farm families since the 1800s. The publication shares many tips and how-tos related to farm and family life. The November 1883 edition has an article on home decorating for Thanksgiving. Using old tested methods and materials, directions are given for the creation of wreaths and mantel, table and picture decorations.
Mountain Ash berries and Sumac blooms were suggested for decorating. As Thanksgiving is in the later part of November these materials may not have lasted long enough to utilize for decorations.
Climbing bittersweet or wax-work berries may also be used. These are on the vine and draped over pictures or around a wreath-shaped form.
Cranberries are suggested for decorating by stringing individual berries on a thin floral wire about 5 inches long. As individual berries are wired, they are made into a cluster by twisting the wires together to make a cluster that can be anchored onto greenery.
If cranberries are not available, peas or beans that have been pre-softened by boiling can be strung in the same way. Before creating a cluster, after individual stringing, dip the vegetables into red sealing wax and allow to dry. When fully dried, twist the individual wires together to create a cluster.
The wreath form can be created from rope, lathe or pasteboard. Small bits of evergreen are tied onto the form with small size cord, all the way around the form. When completed, the berry clusters are attached in any number desired by the maker.
Mantle swags can be made from wild grape vine and Virginia creeper, covered with moss or evergreens and mounted over and above the mantle, with hanging swags of various greenery. These are decorated with berry clusters, too.
In 1883, table tops had their outer edge circled with greenery and berries. Pictures that hung on the wall had an evergreen swag that was tacked to the wall under the picture, then it went around one side of the picture and ended at the top and was anchored. Bows and berries were placed at the bottom of the swag.
Dining room tables were decked out in pumpkin vased fall greenery. Pumpkins were hollowed out and seeds removed. Moistened sand was put into the pumpkin center and any kind of greenery, grain or leaves were put into the sand as a decoration.
Any of these ideas could be utilized today without too much work and little cost, if there is access to greenery and vines. If combined with modern materials, only imagination and funds will limit the possibilities.
This is a great time to start thinking about what to use in your home for Thanksgiving decorating. Sometimes simpler is better. It keeps with the tradition of using what you have available and helps to create that Thanksgiving mindset of gratitude and thanks.
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Some fall trivia:
— Wisconsin is the top cranberry producer.
— "Pelee" mums are named after the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes.
— Potatoes store well in a cool, dry place.
Master gardener Fredi Stangland resides in Medina.