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Toi Degree: Use your 4-H plants for home decorating

This is for those of you that will buy plants from the 4-H plant sale — once your plants mature and begin to grow vines, the vines, fruit and leaves can become beautiful additions to your home décor.

Here are a few ways to incorporate nature and make your home warm and inviting.

Muscadine vines are ideal for making wreaths. The first step is harvesting the vines. Muscadine vines are best used after pruning, which is usually done in February, but you can use them throughout the year. You will want nice, long lengths of vine to work with, anything from 3 feet to 10 feet is a workable length.

Next, you want to soak the vines, coil them in a large bowl or laundry basket, and cover them with water overnight so they remain pliable and easy to weave. Or, after a rain when vines are still wet, they are easy to work with and won’t break.

There are several different methods of weaving you may choose, such as pulling the vine in and out of the circle and working your way around the wreath until you come to the end of the vine. Tuck this end in place between the coils.

Keep adding vines until the wreath is the size and thickness you want. You could also use a wire frame to make your wreath; the frame will allow you to have a uniform shape and is great for beginners. It is up to you whether you weave the vines tightly or loosely. A loose wreath is less formal and allows room to weave in ribbons. Depending upon how you choose to decorate your wreath will determine how loose or tight the weave. Decorate your wreath as you desire, and attach a wire or string at the back for hanging.

Berries are not only good for making jams and jellies but can be used to add to your wreath or for potpourri. If you come across some berries that are green or over-ripe when harvesting your berries for processing, repurpose those berries. You can dehydrate them and add to your potpourri or wreath. By adding berries, you provide pops of color. You can also add leaves from your blueberry plant; they will add a striking contrast of color in floral arrangements.

Above are a few ways to bring nature inside to your home décor. There are many other ways — it’s just a matter of using your imagination and creativity to make a one-of-a-kind arrangement that will capture the very essence of nature. If you are having trouble and need references, sites such as Pinterest and others may offer tutorials, supply lists and often, places to purchase items. Happy creating.

Slow cooking

Come learn more about the slow cooker and how it can be used to prepare delicious meals. Not only is it considered to be convenient and a time saver, it is also energy efficient and aids in retaining vital nutrients in foods.

There are so many savory dishes that can be prepared with little effort. With slow cooking, flavors have time to fully develop.  Vegetables absorb the flavors of the stock and herbs used, and meats are fork-tender due to moist heat cooking.  So, if you are interested in learning more about slow cooking and all the delicious meals and desserts you can make, then this Lunch and Learn is for you.

Join me Wednesday, Oct. 14 at noon at the Agricultural Center for Slow Cooking 101. Seating is limited, so registration is required. Call 704-216-8970 and ask to be placed on the list.

Toi N. Degree, is family and consumer education agent, Rowan County Cooperative Extension. toi_degree@ncsu.edu

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