Finding a natural solution
Jaclyn Kennison is a freelance writer living and playing in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She owns and manages an art gallery and event venue between fits of shopping and redecorating.
My last blog concerned battling mosquitoes and in researching that piece I was thrilled to discover that it is possible—and probably a lot of fun—to make your own mosquito-repelling tiki torch. Someone suggested reusing an old wine bottle and while I love the idea, I'm thinking about mason jars instead as they are equally sturdy and fire-proof but come with perfect fitting tops for sealing them up.
In my case, I'd like to decorate the jars first with a bit of paint, or some glued-on stones or sticks. (Be sure to use strong and safe adhesive and let it dry completely). Using a screwdriver, puncture a hole in the lid of your jar and thread the wick through. Google "tiki wicks" and quite an array of suppliers comes up, but as far as I can tell, simple wicks made of cotton or hemp work just fine. Position the wick so that it hangs well into the jar and trim so a mere half-inch sticks out above the opening in your lid.
Choose your fuel. Again, there are a variety of options out there. I ran across a few sources that list olive oil laced with 20 to 40 drops of citronella or lemongrass oil as an ideal fuel for discouraging mosquitoes. Of course there are some eco-friendly brands out there that produce the ready-made version as sustainably as possible. Check out Purple Skeeter Beater torch fuel—so far, it's my favorite.
Fill your jar to a bit over half full with your fluid of choice and you have a lovely tiki.
My plan is to use framing wire to hang the jars from the low limbs of trees. If you choose this route as well, bear in mind the height the heat will reach so as not to create a fire hazard in your trees.
Lay out a circle of wire about two inches longer than the circumference of your jar at it's smallest point. Measure three lengths of wire into three foot sections (or however long you would like) and attach them to the wire ring at even intervals. Twist the tail of the wire around itself several times to ensure a solid hold. Pull the ring up to the smallest part of your jar, with the three long wires attached, and twist the ends of the ring together as tightly as you can so as to create a strong hoop for the neck of your jar. Now gather the three longer wires and twist them together at their end, which should be about three feet from the mouth of the jar. Bend them over a tree branch of your choice and wrap the twisted section around the three wires creating a sort of double twist to keep the hanging tiki jars securely in the tree. Test to be sure the heat of a lit tiki will not even warm the nearest branches so you are sure you don't have a fire hazard on your hands. Repeat the process three or four times and invite your friends over for a Tiki Party!