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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Easy Homemade Christmas Gift---And it Won't Stick You!

If you are in the same situation as I am, you are rushed and stressed that Christmas is right around the corner! Well, this craft lesson may help you. We live in an area with an abundance of Cactus...Prickly Pear, commonly known as Nopal Cactus. These do have thorns but there is a variety around here that is considered "spineless." Read on to learn how to make a Nopales Christmas Cactus Wreath.

Commonly called Prickly Pear, the Nopal Cactus is scientifically categorized as Opuntia Spp, a generic name referring to over 200 species of the Opuntia cacti family. This has been used as a medicinal plant and food for 12,000 years. But we are going to learn how to make a Cactus Christmas Wreath using the nopales or pads. If you do not have cactus, ask a neighbor if they mind giving you some. I guarantee they will say, “Take all you want!” One of the best things about making a Christmas gift from your garden is that most of the supplies are free. For the purposes of this project, I chose to use Opuntia ficus-indica‘Burbank Spineless’(Nopal).

Supply list: leather gloves, tongs, floral wire (optional), floral pins, glue gun, raffia, straw wreath, small brush, dried chiles either fresh or artificial, acrylic spray, 8-10 cactus pads in uniform size.

Cover your work area with newspaper or plastic table cloth and assemble your supplies. Wear leather gloves and use metal tongs when selecting the cactus pads. Use the tongs to pull the pad from the plant. Pads break off easily.

Using floral wire, make a hanger by wrapping wire around wreath making it long enough to hook on a nail.

Gently clean debris off one side of pads with small brush. Choose to clean the side of the pad that does not lay flat on your wreath. As you are cleaning the pads, randomly place them around the wreath to give you an idea of placement. You want pads that will nestle against the wreath at least in two places. This is where you will apply the glue.

Using glue gun, secure first pad in place in two places that touch the wreath. Wearing leather gloves or using tongs, lightly press until glue dries. Secure the narrow end with one floral pin. Continue with next pad, covering the previous narrow end, thus hiding the floral pin. Continue this technique until you cover the wreath. It would be ideal to end with about 2” between the last pad and the first, but if they does not happen, no problem. You will cover this area with raffia and chiles.

When the wreath is covered with nopales, spray all the pads with acrylic spray. Let dry.

Using a good amount of raffia, lay it on the table lengthwise and tie one piece of raffia or floral wire in the middle to secure. Free form a bow letting loose ends hang about to the middle of the wreath. If raffia ends are too long, randomly rough cut some from the bottom.

At the center of your Cactus Wreath, hot glue the raffia bow. You can hide floral pins to further secure the bow. Arrange 3 chiles and secure stems with floral wire. Attach chile stems to bow with floral pin or hot glue.
Keep your wreath from rain. The covered porch will be fine but out in the ope, the cactus will become mushy and not last for next year. Like it? If you have any problems, just let me know. You can combine the spiney cactus with the spineless...that would be cool. Also you can use a different kind of wreath...what about barb wire? Grapevine? How about foam?
Have fun!!
If you need more ideas, I have a ton of them...how about herbal vinegar? Homemade soap? Bath salts? Meat rubs?
Most people LOVE to receive homemade gifts. Believe me. In today's economy, it not only makes good sense to make your gifts but it also teaches your children and recipients about gift-giving. It comes from the heart, not the pocketbook.
See you next time.

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