Much Ado And Merry Too

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.

In the Bible’s Old Testament, a Juniper tree with an angelic presence sheltered the prophet Elijah from Queen Jezebel’s pursuit. Similarly, a later biblical tale tells of how the infant Jesus and his parents were hidden from King Herod’s soldiers by a Juniper during their flight into Egypt. So, the fine-limbed Juniper does, after all, have a place on the list of good Christmas tree choices.

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.

  1. Paula Spencer says:

    Love it! Thanks and merry Christmas!!

  2. Peggy says:

    Are you ever on top of it!! A lovely, lovely post. My first thing is to bring out my holiday dinnerware set — the Lenox bird set — and it stays out until Valentine’s Day!

  3. Terry says:

    Merriest Christmas Shery! Enjoy each and every moment from the soft sound of the cattle, to the twinkling of lights and ornaments, to the incredibly scrumptious bite of fudge. The Blessed Savior delights in the fullness of your life!

  4. Maura says:

    What a wonderful post! I can only imagine how wonderful Christmas is living on a ranch. We moved to our small farm a year and a half ago and I’m loving every minute of it and although we don’t have a lot of animals …it’s starting to feel more and more like a farm should. Thank you for sharing your tree search photo’s and your decorations…your trees are beautiful. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
    Maura 🙂

  5. Colleen Gotori says:

    Here in southern California on the high desert we have Juniper bushes, not trees – they grow huge and round, but not much taller than 7 feet and I love the blue berries and the green of the spikey leaves. I enjoy your blog so much – we grew up on a ranch and then my kids and my husband and I had horses for years. Sure miss ’em. Your pictures are gorgeous and I am grateful for your references, in this very commercial, and sometimes uninterested world, to the reason for Christmas, the King of Kings. Merry Christmas!

  6. Grace~katmom says:

    Oh Shery,
    The first thing I do to start off the Season,,,, is Music,,,I pull out a "gazillion" CD’s of Christmas Music…I am forever buying new ones and yet they all have the same songs…but I am a pushover for Christmas music.

    I luv your decorated faux fruit idea, and I see ‘plastic’ fruit at the Thrifts all the time,,,hmmm, I think I will have to pick some up, glitter, decorate & display,,,thanx for a great idea.

    Last but not least, from our little ‘ranchette’ to yours,
    Blessings to you & yours for a truly meaningful Christmas.

  7. Debra Brown says:

    You just gave me a great idea. Thank you a lot. Merry Christmas

  8. Raynita says:

    Thanks for sharing your joy and love for this most blessed Christmas season. Have a beautiful Christmas at your lovely home with your very blessed family and friends. I plan on doing the same here at my lodge:)

  9. Debbie says:

    Merry Christmas Shery!

    I LOVE so many things about this post…Where to start?
    Juniper trees… We have them on our property out west in the high desert of Northern Nevada… The blue birds love to build nests in them. I can smell those berries just thinking about it! I can also remember crunching along in the snow on a bright sunny afternoon surrounded by the smell of those tree’s and fresh wide-open space and air. Winter in the high desert is SWEET and quite a contrast to the beauty of more traditional Christmas scenes here in New England.
    We are kindred spirits when it comes to themed trees… I ADORE looking at them but I don’t have the heart to trade in my tried and true decorations (or the new ones we give each other every year as a family tradition) for A themed one.

    I love love love your natural table centerpieces for your farmgirl gathering… It’s so true that those things that please us gals are often lost on our men ( dears that they are)… That’s why our gal pal friendship’s mean so much! CHRISTmas magic is in the air and if we could all just be a little more open to it year round, we would be MUCH better for it!

    Wishing you the best of all this season has to bring.
    Beach Blessings from Americas hometown…

  10. Denise Sexton says:

    I just love reading about your life in WY! Merry Christmas!

  11. Teri says:

    Once again, Shery, you have captured the true spirit of Christmas. I love your Juniper tree and wish we had them here. I look forward to your blog and stop what I am doing to read it the minute it’s printed.
    Thank you and a very Merry Christmas to you and yours

  12. Helen Stoskus says:

    This was great. I love seeing all the old ornaments and the decorations. Took me back to my childhood days. Now I share these with my grandchildren.Merry Christmas to all.
    Thank you for sharing your holidays with us

  13. Mandy Horr says:

    I LOVE your post!! SO pretty and such great ideas as well. And YAY!! Wyoming!! My home! 🙂

  14. meredith williams says:

    You should know that in this busiest of seasons, your post was the one I HAD to read – its always the best. God Bless you and your’s this Christmas! Farmgirl hugs from Virginia!

  15. mellee says:

    I so love reading your posts. I have never been any further west than west virginia, and reading about your life and where you live is always refreshing. I hope you have a very merry Christmas.

    farmgirl #2143

  16. Mary Ann says:

    Shery, Love this blog post. LOVE it as always. And I am crazy ga-ga over that white Christmas tree at Beth’s. I secretly lust for a white tree. Your flow blue plates are beautiful too!

    Love that you used those junipers. I have been considering doing the tumble weed tree for a long time. Blew it this year, as the snow came before I could gather them. But next year!

  17. Rusty McHale says:

    What a great post. You are a wonderful writer and I enjoy reading each and every one of your stories. And your pictures are terrific. I only wish I lived closer so I could get to know you personally and share your love of antiques and horses. Have a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.


  18. Hi Shery, Just read your blog about your Christmas. Loved it. So many times we don’t stop and think about the reason for the season and its sad. I am making some homemade Christmas presents. I love it and my galpals love to sit around on a day we pick for lunch too. we will exchange our little gifts as well. Have a Very Merry Christmas and a healthy, happy New Year, Hugs, Farmsister #1020 Juanita

  19. Cheri says:

    Agree – much ado- I love that a lot is expected of me – but i don’t expect it of others. The kids LOVE that I love the spirit of the season – but I am coming to really look forward to our church’s GIVING Tree delivery – where I load up not only the suburban, but also our 2 horse trailers full of gifts for 35 families. The high school youth group prays with the families and paints the kids faces. That is the truest meaning – the sharing of the REASON for the SEASON … and the giving. But, I did string lights along 400 ft of pasture fence – it is great. Have used 4 rolls of paper to wrap, 18 pounds of butter and 20 pounds of flour for baking and I will be cleaning as well – thanks for a great post.

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