There is a large, old horsechestnut tree outside my kitchen window. At the moment the horse chestnuts (known as conkers in the UK or buckeyes in the US) are becoming ripe and thudding to the ground. They are round, polished and lovely to hold. I am unable to see them shining on the ground without picking them up, often they end up forgotten in bags and pockets. Here in Italy they are almost completely ignored, I've only ever spotted school kids throwing them at each other. In the past they were put under pillows to ward off a fever. When I was a kid in the UK they were greatly appreciated, especially by young boys for "conker fights". I remember my brother experimenting to discover the best way to harden his "weapons"(Baking/ Aging/Varnishing/Pickling). "Conker Fighting" is an old children's game,popular in the UK, which has become less common in recent years as many schools have banned it ( considered dangerous) and computer/video games/ phones/i-pods have taken the place of such passtimes.
Conkers also deter moths as they contain a natural repellent (triterpenoid saponin). Some say they even repel spiders, but I'm not convinced. I don't have any moths but I do still have spiders (country living!).
I like to make these simple, pretty hangers to deter moths from my wardrobes. The conkers can be changed every year. They make great gifts for kids to give to mums, aunts, grans and neighbours.
Drill or hammer and nail
Glue-gun or glue
Cut the top part off an old coathanger (the type which are given by drycleaners) with pliers
Leave 4/5 centimeters from the bend and use the pliers to curve it into a circle.
Cover the hook with ribbon. Attach at the end with a glue-gun.
Wrap the ribbon tightly and fix it at the other end.
Allow the conkers to dry out for a few days (sun or low heat).
Drill holes in the conkers and thread them onto some string, Make a few knots between the conkers to stop them dropping down, as they shrink over time. If you haven't got a drill you can also use a hammer and a nail to make the holes.
Attach the string to the hook.
Tie a bow with some ribbon and hang.
I also string conkers to put into drawers (especially for wool/cashmere). They look great with old lace.
All about conkers
how to play conkers (great school site about British holidays,customs and culture)
Royal Society of Chemistry (fun investigation-"are spiders afraid of conkers?")
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