At one farm in Marstons Mills the holiday season is celebrated with fun of making Christmas wreaths.


Barbara Parker, owner of the Mills River Farm, which is on River Road, says the annual event is really “a family thing” to which the huge clan gathers from Nantucket and Rhode Island, and as far as New Jersey, and invite their friends.


Barbara’s daughter Patti Duarte-Maroney says “It kicks off the Christmas season, and brings you back to olden times.”


It all began about ten years ago when the Parker homestead became Mills River Farm. Barbara taught herself and her children using the traditional Cape Cod wreaths from greens of princess pine, which is now too endangered to use. One year her daughter, Patti,  needed presents for her friends and decided to make  wreaths. The wreaths were such a hit and everyone wanted one so Patti decided to teach them to make their own.


The season starts when the family patriarch, Bob Parker, clears out his woodworking shop, and turns it over to Patti, while he goes hunting. She and her friends string up the colored lights, and set out the old cranberry crates for the greenery. Local landscapers deliver clippings of greenery which would otherwise be discarded, and Patti gets more exotic greens from Maine.


Patti schedules dates after Thanksgiving when friends  can sign up to make wreaths. Space is limited  so spots fill up fast.


The process starts with a metal frame on which the greens are mounted. The first year Bob Parker used metal coat hangers which he rounded into shape by pressing them into buckets for concrete, but it’s easier  now to buy them.


The participants then pick\ out greens from the cranberry crates and trim them to fit the frame. On top one can glue pine cones, red berries from the wild roses, sea shells and crab’s claws gathered at the beach, and dried flowers, like those from hydrangeas, or seed pods and grasses. As finishing touches there’s spray paint and glitter.


Finally, there’s the ribbon, selected from a wide variety. There’s even a hook to hang the wreath on so one can stand back and admire it and decide if it needs another touch.


Patti and her nieces, Liza Duarte and Roxanna Nadim, are there in red aprons, ready to help  along with a  crew from neighboring Freedom Farm.


It’s cold outside, but Bob’s wood stove  keeps the workshop cozy. And Barbara brings in a pot of homemade soup: maybe mushroom-artichoke, traditional Portuguese kale, chili, or black beans. With the soup there’s pumpkin bread and cranberry squares.


People come to eat!” Barbara, the cook says cheerily. She sets out her homemade jellies and jams of wild raspberries, beach plums and grapes. Crackers and cream cheese can be topped with Mills River Special Relish.

Bob’s daughter Wendy  Parker Smith tends to the farm so the festivities can go on.


And of course there’s Christmas music, and wreath makers join in the carols. A high point of the season is when “Romeo”, their pet miniature pony pokes his head in, his neck wreathed, to lead a parade around the farm, calling on the ducks, geese and horses.


You’re lucky if you are a relative or a friend of  the Parker/Duarte clan, and there are many!


Barnstable Enterprise 10 Dec. 2010



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