Thursday, December 24, 2009

Deck the Farm

This is the barn at our family farm. I think it’s the best-looking barn around. It’s just what a barn should look like. It’s a small barn as far as old barns go, but I love our barn. Each year, ever since I was in high school I think, I create a giant wreath to bedeck the barn. This post is going to be a pictorial journey of the construction of the 2009 edition of the wreath.

A lot of farm folks would call this building a “shop”. We always just called it “the garage”. At any rate, this is where the magic happens. There’s a section heated with a wood burner to create a comfortable workshop. Note the star…that’s the basketball backboard. Pretty cool, huh? Here in Indiana, we’re a basketball state.

There’s a certain evergreen tree/bush in the backyard that provides lovely greenery for the purposes of my giant wreath. I used to just go cut pieces off a pine tree, but that would irritate my hands. Maybe I was allergic. Anyhow, there’s a particular bush in the backyard that gets trimmed every year at this time. Dad knows my time is usually limited, and I’m usually running behind on making the wreath (like this year, I didn’t get to it until December 23rd), so I give him advance notice of when I’ll probably be over, and he does the trimming for me, hauls the greens into the garage, and spreads them out so they can dry out. It was a good thing he did this prep this year, as the day I got around to making the wreath, it was a sleet storm! Here’s some of the greenery, propped against various Allis-Chalmers tractors…

We used to have a different system, but this is the frame Dad built several years ago. It’s made from some heavy plastic tubing that he had lying around the farm from something or from somewhere. Having a double circle allows more places to tie to and allows for a fuller wreath.

The following picture shows the (antique) tools I use. Most of you will recognize the pruners, the scissors, and the floral wire. However, the tool at the top may only look familiar to those of you who grew up on a hog farm “back in the day”. That’s a box of pig rings and the tool you use to clamp the rings into a closed position. (Don’t ask me questions or say it’s cruel. We don’t have pigs anymore, and I only use them for craft projects now! Though I do remember ringing pigs…)

This is what the pig rings are for. When we made the frame, I spaced them all around and I wire the greenery to them. Sometimes there’s a need to go all the way around the tubing, but usually these are just right!

There is an “up side” of the wreath that is prepared for hanging. I just start attaching greenery at the 12 o’clock position, and work down toward 6 o’clock. I start with fuller pieces of greens and then I can always go back and fill in with thinner pieces. Once I reach the 6 o’clock, I go back to 12 and work counter clock-wise to 6 o’clock again. The pieces lay best with the cut end toward 12 o’clock, and the rest hanging down, so I just go with that. That’s why I start at the top and work down both sides. (Note: I do not use the huge limbs that you saw in a previous picture. I trim the smaller limbs off of the big limbs and use the smaller ones. The pieces you use need to have some give to them so you can curve them.)

Once I get it filled in all the way around, I hang it up so I can better see what’s not laying right or where I need more filler. This frames the old drill press and the workbench nicely, don’t you think?

When I think I have enough greenery in place, I take ribbon around and around. It takes more than you think, so buy plenty. The ribbon also helps pull any wayward boughs into place.

Once the ribbon is in place, I’ll then take a final look at the greenery and trim anything off that’s askew. Then I attach a bow. This year I’m putting it at the top. I’m also being lazy and using the bow I made last year. I’m not good at making bows, so being able to reuse saved me several minutes!

Meanwhile, Dad found some motor or pump that he was taking apart. He likes to take things apart. Oil started to flood out of it, so I gave him two handfuls of sawdust from the table saw.

Then add some lights. Make sure they work.

Then go get a ladder.

And then carefully climb up the ladder with the wreath around you, hook it on the nail that’s up there, then carefully back out of the wreath and climb back down.

Following is a little more about a side project on this year’s wreath making day… So I learned of a “Deck the Farm” Christmas photo contest that AGCO was doing. They wanted pictures that included past or present AGCO products. What used to be Allis-Chalmers, of which we have a few, now falls under the AGCO umbrella. So since stuff was 50% off at the craft store, I whipped up a wreath and garland for my favorite, the 1958 Allis-Chalmers D17.

Then I had Dad park it in front of the barn for a photo shoot. I think next year I’ll decorate a Farmall, the lovely Farmall red will match the backdrop of the barn better.


  1. Joannie,

    You are the Martha Stewart of rural Northern Indiana. Beautiful wreath, as usual.

    Merry Christmas,


  2. Will share your story on the AGCO Facebook fan page, but didn't see your WAY COOL photo entered into the "Deck the Farm" contest. Deadline is today at 5pm. Be sure to enter the D17 Allis Chalmers at:

  3. Really? Can you be more talented? Cookies, fiddles, wreaths, exercise queen, turkey hunter, what else??