Garden Lifestyle

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Now that the hubbub of shopping and wrapping and baking has passed and we have a breather before we celebrate the new year, this is the time to relax a bit.

Evergreens and Christmas trees have been used as holiday decorations for centuries. Our decorations are eclectic--from handmade nursery school ornaments and ones fashioned from natural seed pods and nuts--to blown glass fruits and vegetables and strands of cranberries. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger

Now that the hubbub of shopping and wrapping and baking has passed and we have a breather before we celebrate the new year, this is the time to relax a bit. Take the time to enjoy the season.

Right now the house is decorated and fairly tidy. It is 19° F outside so there isn’t much that I want to do outdoors. It is the perfect time to reflect on the past year and the new year to come. I like to savor the fresh greens, the holiday flowers, the traditional and natural decorations, and the lights on the tree. I’ve always loved Christmas trees since I was a small child; it seems sort of magical to have a tree in the house adorned with twinkling lights and treasured ornaments.

I have felt conflicted about cutting a live tree; in my mind it doesn’t seem very green. Over the years, we have bought live trees with root balls wrapped in burlap—various types of pine, fir, and spruce. I’d say that about 50 per cent of them survived. It is tough on a conifer to be brought indoors after having been outside in the natural cold temperatures, and then come into a heated house. I’d leave them in for as short a time as possible which meant a quick turnaround for decorating and undecorating (my least favorite part). Digging a hole in hard frozen earth is not an easy task—and it isn’t a very inviting place for a tree with a warm root ball. Then the tree has to be well watered. If there is not a lot of precipitation it will need to be watered once a week, or so. A blanket of snow is a good thing for a just replanted live tree. The very first live tree that we bought, 38 years ago is a huge pine now, a good two stories tall and at least 15 feet across at the base. So one does need to think about where they are placed.   

This year my daughter Cady and her friend Sean went to his grandfather’s local Christmas tree farm. There, Cady spent nearly an hour picking out the best shaped-tree while Sean stood around in the cold with the saw. She apparently paid no heed to my parting comment to remember where the tree was going in the hallway and to get a small one. Regardless that we have to turn sideways to get into the living room, it is one of the most beautiful trees that we have had. Buying a tree from a tree farm is supporting a local farmer. His crop just takes a lot longer to grow than say, tomatoes or pumpkins. As I sit here writing, I am looking at the tree lighting the dark hall with its gaily colored lights and it is a cheery sight.

I am sitting by the woodstove; all of the family and visitors gather is this room. Most come in and stand alongside the stove and hold out their hands over the stove. Then before long, nearly overcome with the heat, they turn to warm their backside. Although the woodstove is a lot of work and it is something I have to clean up after everyday, there is nothing like wood heat. Since our property is wooded, we have down trees and dead ones to use for the fueling the stove. The cutting, hauling, splitting, stacking and carrying is hard work and the part using machinery, I leave to my husband Tomaso. I help stack and carry and keep the stove going most of the day and fill it before I go to bed at night. I am thankful for a full woodbox and a warm fireside chair. There is no better place to sit and read. And I have a new pile of books that will take awhile to get through, not to mention the new seed catalogues which are starting to arrive. Two new books that I always look forward to each year are the annual publications by Llewellyn–The Moon Sign Book and The Sun Sign Book. I use them, along with the Farmers’ Almanac, when planning and planting the garden. Now is the time–armed with these books, my favorite seed catalogues and a highlighter–to be an armchair gardener.

Of course, the holiday season wouldn’t be complete without good things to eat. I take pleasure in leftover baked goodies like homemade cookies and stollën laden with dried fruits and nuts, or one of the dark chocolates that came in my stocking, with a cup of fragrant tea, while listening to music, reading by the stove, or looking out at the birds feeding. These little things give me a great feeling of contentment. My grandfather used to say that he was comfortable and that is how I feel, this week after the holidays before the new year. Just taking the time to be, and enjoy some of the little things in life. I wish you comfort and joy and peace—now and in the year to come. Here’s to a happy, healthy, prosperous and green 2011!         

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