December is a month of strong contrasts. The coldness of winter and early evening darkness are no longer ahead of us. Winter is here. Preparations for Christmas are in full swing now. For those who enjoy it, the busyness is full of light and warmth … traditions remembered, long-time family recipes , making handmade goodies for gifts and decor. It can feel like there is way too much to fit into one month. But, I don’t think I’d change a thing … would you?
What is the first thing you do to begin the journey toward Christmas? I look for Poinsettias … something different for myself and a traditional red one for my mother. Above is my pick this year. I’d get more than one, but this year every window that has good light is helping me winter-over my favorite Geraniums.
Then, as I mentioned in my last blog, I go on an annual tree hunt with my Brother-In-Law, Earl. This year, my farmgirl galpal, Anita, joined us (below, with her hatchet). Earl has orders to fill … three trees for his daughters. I needed two – one for home and a smaller one for the Christmas program I’m helping to organize. High Plains meadows begin with Pine trees on the fringe, and as you travel into the timber, Junipers take over. It is so peaceful and quiet … all you can hear is your own footsteps and the occasional winter bird.
I looked and I looked … and I took my time. The Juniper population includes every age of tree – from knee high babies, to those that have been here since the the early 1900s. Also, numerous dead trees stand in the winter snow, looking like art in it’s most natural form. I brought one dead tree home as a bird-feeding tree. Half of the fun of the great tree hunt was being outside and enjoying a perfect day for the expedition. The sun was bright, there wasn’t a hint of a breeze and the temperature was in the mid 30s. I walked and I walked … then, there she was … standing by herself in a meadow … the tree I was looking for … not too tall, not too wide, nice shape. Juniper isn’t what most folks probably see when they think of the classic Christmas tree, but my “lacey” Juniper is a regional choice, a hometown kind of tree.
After a good haircut & trim, I put the tree in an old galvanized bucket and poured smooth river rocks into the bucket to stabilize the tree. Then the decorating began. I usually buy a few new ornaments each year, as well as making some too. This year I bought four large mercury glass balls … and I made the spruce cones that you might have seen on the cover of the newest edition of MaryJanesFarm (the instructions for making them are in the issue). I love “theme” decorated trees, but I can’t commit to the strict rules of the idea. My tree is always a merry mix of old favorites and new loves.
I also made ornaments from faux fruit. You can too! They’re super easy. Just buy your favorites that are in keeping with the holiday (oranges, pears, apples). Embellish them with ribbon, berries, greenery and evergreen cones. A hot glue gun makes fast work of the project. When the ornaments were done, I gently “wisped” spray glue on them and sprinkled clear glitter on them. I made three ornaments in less than half an hour (and I’m really pokey).
I’m having my farmgirl friends over tomorrow for lunch and a gift exchange. It gives me a chance to use my antique China and my new red & white “Country Living” dishes that have chickens on them. The quaintness of my china collection is kinda lost on menfolk, but my girlfriends “get it” and it is so much fun to make a fuss for them because they enjoy it so much. Comfort fare is on the menu: potato soup, stuffed baked pumpkin, Waldorf salad … and Anita’s home-made wine.
I really like “make it easy” decorating. A handful of garden or wild flowers in a blue canning jar works for me. For tomorrow, I placed Juniper trimmings in a pitcher, stuck some artificial berries down into it also … and set it in a spongeware bowl that has tiny spruce cones sprinkled into it. EasyShmeezy !!
Last, but not least, is the barn. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a lot more realistic (or lazy?) about how carried away I get with decorating the barn. Years back, I strung lights all over it and along the corral panels. Now … well, “not so much”. All it gets is lights on a large barb-wire wreath. The “wreath” is actually trash – rusty wire that was rolled up when we re-fenced.
“What all” my husband and I are going to do for Christmas is unknown at the moment, but one stop will probably include my family’s get-together at my sister’s house in South Dakota (just a short drive away). Beth’s ski-chalet style house is decorated in vintage themes and “shabby chic”. I love sitting in the middle of the living room at night, staring at her gorgeous white tree.
Although she still holds track records in South Dakota, Beth was more the girly-girl while I was a die-hard tomboy. She was Grandma’s girl and I was Grandad’s shadow. Now we’re closer to being on the same page and we both love MaryJanesFarm publications. As farmgirls know the world over, being a farmgirl isn’t a look-alike thing, it is a state of mind. In my opinion, MaryJane lovingly nurtures eclectic diversity in the ranks.
We’re about midway to Christmas now and I’ve got a lot on my plate. You too? My farmgirl pals will be here for lunch tomorrow, then it is full steam ahead in preparation for our town’s Christmas service/program (on Sunday). Eleventh hour details are nigh. I can’t sing or play an instrument, so the job of organizing and decorating the community center fell to me. My step-daughter is one of the performers (piano solo) and my sister’s fiancee` will sing Ave Maria – imagine a real & true cowboy with an opera voice. He took voice lessons in his youth, he was in the University of Wyoming opera choir and he’s sung in chamber music groups for “lo these many years”. Here he is below at branding time …
Yep, this is a “much ado” month. In addition to the festive extras of making “Christmas 2010″, there are chores. In my case, the horses and cattle need to be fed, laundry is an indoor sport and my unfinished porch needs mucked out. All the things on my “to do” list will just have to get in line and wait. I’m committed to enjoying some quiet time and the special kind of peace that the Christmas season brings. When I go out to feed our heifers, I love to listen to them eat. To me, it is a relaxing and pleasant sound. I guess it must be a farmgirl thing to find peace in the presence of a cow munching hay. Looking back two-thousand and ten years, I see a cow chewing her cud in a Bethlehem stable (perhaps the only light was that of an oil lamp). I bet she experienced a special kind of peace … while listening to softened voices, angelic praise, and the cooing of a newborn King … the King of Kings.