DONNA'S DAY: Collect tree bark for fun craft projects

Bar from cut logs and branches can be used in craft and decorating projects.

What's better this fall than taking leisurely family walks to grab some fresh air and enjoy the stimulation of the outdoors? While everyone might recognize houses and neighbors, and get caught up in collecting fallen leaves along the way, this time can also draw everyone's attention to new discoveries ... like taking a closer look at the bark on trees. Is it knobbly and cracked? Talk about the colors and shapes. Some might even look like pieces to a puzzle. How does bark from an oak look different from that of a maple?

If you live in a rural area or near a nature preserve where you are allowed to collect bark on the ground, bring it home for fun craft and decorating projects. Or, if you have a pile of firewood, use the bark from the cut logs and branches. (Never strip bark off of a living tree, as that can harm it.)

BIRCH BARK

Since we have an abundance of beautiful birch bark strewn in the woods where we walk and hike, I use the outer thin layer for unique craft projects and as a fire starter.

Cards: Place a thin layer of bark between heavy books for a day or two to flatten it, then trim the edges and write a note to someone directly on the lightest side of the bark with pen. Tuck it in an envelope and send to a friend. If you have lots of bark, make sets of cards and envelopes to give as presents. Or simply cut mini gift tags, punch a hole at the end, slip string through and knot.

Cover recycled containers: Wrap and glue a piece of birch bark to a tin can for a charming vase or pencil holder, or around a small glass jar for a votive candleholder.

Use when camping: When you head off for a camping trip now or next summer, keep in mind that dry birch bark is an ideal fire starter. Collect it from the ground on day hikes, and keep in your pockets for use when you get back to your campsite.

OTHER BARKS

You can use any kind of bark pieces in creative ways.

Outfit a house: Decorate a milk carton bird feeder to hang in your backyard for feathered friends. Cover the "roof" and closed sides with strips of bark in all shapes and sizes, along with a few tiny pine cones. Or, decorate a wooden "house" from a craft store for an indoor story time prop. (Use a glue gun for best results.)

Photo frame: Cover a frame with bits and pieces of bark using a glue gun. Place a photo of your family on a nature walk inside.

Donna Erickson's award-winning series "Donna's Day" is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit www.donnasday.com and link to the NEW Donna's Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is "Donna Erickson's Fabulous Funstuff for Families."  (c) 2019 Donna Erickson  Distributed by King Features Synd.

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