Broken Beauty: DIY Derecho Christmas Ornaments

The August 10th Derecho was something we’d all like to forget.

With piles of debris still lining city streets, schools delayed and many businesses, homes, and parks damaged, the derecho is pretty hard to forget. My family is still weighed down by the stress of dealing with insurance, getting a contractor to call you back, worrying about mold and asbestos, and wondering how it will all get done.

We just want it to be over and forget it ever happened.

But maybe we shouldn’t forget.

Maybe, among the broken aftermath of the Derecho, there is beauty to remember.

I saw it. You did, too.

The friends or co-workers who walked alongside you dragging branch after branch to the curb. The ones who shared their generator. Those who thanked linemen and offered them a cold drink. People who gave away meals and packed food pantry boxes. The neighbor who smoked all the meat in his freezer and shared it with the whole neighborhood. (Thanks Vern!)

Even more than I want to forget the destruction, sadness, and frustration, I want to remember the beauty.

One way we are doing that is by making Derecho Christmas ornaments out of broken branches.

My kids and I have been giving ornaments in exchange for a minimum $10 donation to Matthew 25. (If you’d like one that my kids painted or blank ornaments all ready for you or your kids to paint, feel free to order and donate here!)

We have already raised over $2,000 for the awesome work Matthew 25 is doing for our community. We’d be happy to have your help in raising that number even higher!

If you’d like to make your own Derecho Christmas ornaments from your broken branches, read on!

You could even make them for your family, friends, and neighbors to raise money for Matthew 25 or another storm relief project close to your heart. (This post has many great options!)

DIY Derecho Ornaments

To make these DIY Derecho Christmas ornaments, gather up these supplies:

  • A tree branch (We have been using 1 1/2 to 3-inch diameter maple branches.)
  • Circular Saw
  • Paint Markers (We like these which you can pick up in the store. These have a finer point and come with some stencils)
  • Clear Glaze (I like this one. You can also find it at Wal-mart.)
  • Drill with a 1/8 inch drill bit
  • String or Cord for hanging. (We used baker’s twine.)
  • Pencil for sketching out designs
  • Paper for sketching or blotting paint markers
  • Wax paper & paint shirt to protect clothing and table. (The paint does not wash off!)

Note: You can use the paint markers and clear spray for painting rocks as well!

1. Using a circular saw, cut the tree branch into “tree cookies” about a half-inch thick. No need to be precise here. Our neighbor was happy to help us out with this part!

2. Decorate with the paint markers. You can do both sides or add names or dates for personalization. We often will look up a clipart image on a device for inspiration. It’s been fun to see all the things they come up with! We traced an Iowa shaped puzzle piece from a United States puzzle to make some “Iowa Strong” ornaments.

3. Lay the ornaments out on wax paper and spray with the clear glaze. Let sit 15 minutes or so. Then, flip them all over and spray the backs. It helps seal up the wood, so it doesn’t dry out and crack, and it keeps the bark from falling off.

4. Once they are dry, use the drill to add a hole to the top of each ornament. I just hold the ornament overhanging the edge of the patio table so the drill bit doesn’t damage anything. It does leave some sawdust, so drill outside if you can!

DIY Derecho Ornaments

5. Tie each ornament with string. (The sharp point of an open safety pin helps force the string through the hole if you have trouble.)

Drop any questions in the comments or let me know if you tried it!

Let your new Derecho Christmas ornaments be a reminder that even among the broken, there is always beauty to be found.

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Amy Lovseth
Amy is a North Dakota girl who fell in love with Iowa when she moved to Cedar Rapids as a newlywed in 2006. She's an elementary teacher turned homeschooling mom of twin girls (2011) and little sister (2014). Her ongoing struggle, is keeping faith and family at the heart of family life, while still encouraging each of her girls to follow their passions and find their unique gifts. Awkwardly athletic with a large dose of nerd, Amy is a lover of words, winter sports, theater, and chocolate. As a recovering perfectionist, she strives to be present over perfect each day and is forever thankful there are no limits on grace. She hopes you find love and encouragement through the posts on CRMB because mom-ing is always better together.

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