Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge has around ten miles of hiking trails to provide a fresh-air escape. Two of the trails, Lake Mary (.6 miles long) and Lake Ledora (1.8 miles long), feature sections of floating boardwalks which add interest to your walk; both trails offer up-close views of cattails and willows as they weave and sway in the wind.
The holidays brought us to the Denver area, where we visited family and took time each day to escape going to the wilder parts of the city. One amazing place is the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, a nearly 16,000 acre oasis in the midst of suburbia, where you can mine the quiet places in your mind and be still.
View from floating boardwalk on Lake Mary, where abnormally warm December temps have kept the ice thin. Chunks of ice atop the glassy surface are attributable to recreational ice breaking (a fun activity for kids and those who are kids-at-heart).
Geriatric black-footed ferrets (previously used in a captive-breeding program) are on display near the refuge’s visitor center. Wild versions of these members of the weasel-family love feasting on black-tailed prairie dogs and reside in the tunnels and homes of their prey.
Bison behind glass.
An eleven-mile loop around the refuge allows you to get up close and personal (from the safety of your car) to a small herd of bison that call the refuge home. These powerful animals can run up to 35 miles an hour.
Wreath-making is not just a craft for me; this is an opportunity to get outside and experience the forest surrounding the Black Hills in the wintertime: to hear the chatter of red squirrels, the electric zip of pine siskins, and listen to the see see see calls of ruby crowned kinglets foraging in the evergreens. Time seems to slow within the solitude, with the slow metronome crunch of one’s boots in the snow and the click click click of clippers nipping off the tips of Black Hills spruce trees.
One of my favorite aunts showed me how to make these wreaths, and ever since she’s taught me, I’ve been making wreaths practically every year. They make great gifts for teachers and friends, plus look great on your own front door.
Per recommendations from our one-year-old kitty Panther, cut-up boxes make great cat toys (especially if you put a pencil or other roly-poly objects inside).
Roll of jute string
A large piece of cardboard (big enough to accommodate a 16-18″ wreath)
Shower curtain ring (to hang wreath)
Evergreen boughs cut approximately 10″ long
This plastic sled-ful will make about one and a half 17″ wreaths.
Pine or spruce cones
Hot glue gun
Make the Wreath Form:
Tie a pencil around the end of a piece of string and pin a thumbtack to the other end. Measure the radius of the wreath you want to make (I usually make somewhere between a 16-18″ wreath, so have about an 8-9″ length of string).
Pin the end of the thumbtack into the center of the cardboard piece. While holding the thumbtack in place, pull the string taught and use the pencil draw a circle to form the outside perimeter of your wreath.
Subtract 4 1/2 inches from the string’s length. Again, pin the thumbtack in the center of the cardboard box, draw the string tight, and use the pencil to draw the outline of an inner circle.
Cut along the lines you drew…and wallah! you have a wreath form (hint: if you are making several wreaths, use this form as a template and trace its outline for the additional wreaths you’d like to make.
Your circle doesn’t have to be perfect…the boughs will cover any imperfections in your cutting job.
Make the Wreath:
Wrap the jute three or four times around the top of the wreath form and tie once or twice with a sturdy knot, leaving a little extra string (about three inches).
Twine the jute around the cardboard wreath form (like you’re making the stripes of the candy cane; keep each “stripe” about 1-1/2″ apart.
When you get back to the piece of extra string, tie both ends together.
Your form should look like this:
Now the fun begins: starting at the top, tuck the largest stem of the evergreen boughs under the wrapped jute until you have about 6-8″ of evergreen exposed. I usually use about three boughs per stripe, but it depends on what type/size of evergreen you’re using.
Progress from one string to the next, tucking your way around the entire wreath. When you get back to the beginning, use your boughs to conceal any exposed jute.
Decorate as desired…(or leave plain). Fasten the shower curtain ring around the jute at the top of the wreath.
Close your eyes and inhale.
For the cones on this wreath, I hot-glued the butts of three spruce cones together, then used floral wire to attach them to the wreath.