Snowy flashpost

Snow drifted into ditch and hedge

We have snow. And a chilling wind that makes it feel like -11C. The sort of day that you tuck your shirt into your knickers so there’s no gaps for the wind to whistle in.

The wind is whistling around the house and the sky is grey and leaden with more snow forecast today. On the plus side, I don’t have to commute to work or go out to buy food. A day to stay inside. Who knows, I may even turn on the heating.


The greyness (or otherwise) of February

Trees and fence reflected in pond on misty February day

February can seem so dull, lacking the newness of the year in January or the spring joyfulness of March. The fields and the garden are too wet to work, there are muddy patches to negotiate on every walk and too many days are grey and overcast. It’s the time of year for catching up with all the niggling jobs that have been put off, for repairing machines and buildings and for sorting, cleaning, discarding, recycling and reorganising on the farm and in the house.

Thankfully, there are bright spots to relieve the greyness and tedium.

Farming conferences, farm machinery shows and training days bring a little light relief and we’ve been temporarily transported back into the sparkle and glitz of Christmas at trade shows while ordering our 2018 decorations.

Lichen growing in hedge

Lichen on the bare branches of the hedges brings a splash of colour.


Oak tree in winter against blue sky

An ancient oak tree stands proud against the bright blue sky on a sunny day.


Tree shadow on farm barn

The shadow from a tree creates a piece of wall art on the side of a barn while …


Shadow of gate on stones in garden

… the shadow of a gate suggests the pattern for a parterre garden.


Reflection of tree in window

A bright day gives dramatic reflections in the window.


Rippled reflection of trees in a window

Looking in through a window, past the rippled reflections of the old glass, to see a piece of ivy still entwined amongst the candles makes me realise that I haven’t taken down all my Christmas decorations.


Scattering of snowdrops and crocus underneath apple tree on a late winter afternoon

On a winter’s afternoon, the scattering of snowdrops and crocus underneath the apple tree holds the promise that spring isn’t too far away.

Maybe February isn’t so dull after all.

Why didn’t I know that?

Why didn't I know that?

How many times do you read something and wonder why you didn’t know that before? It happens to me all the time. Sadly, when I share these revelations with my family, they all too often shrug their shoulders and tell me that it’s old news or ask why anyone would want to know or care.

Just in case you’re interested, here are six of my recent discoveries.
Continue reading “Why didn’t I know that?”

A Country Style Christmas Wreath

A Country Style Christmas Wreath

At this time of year, it’s good to take time out from the frantic Christmas rush and clear your head. My favourites are to get out into the fresh air and to do something creative, so what better than taking a pair of secateurs and snipping some greenery to make a Christmas wreath. While I greatly admire the glory and perfection of a florist’s wreath, I’m more than happy with a simple, country style wreath using foraged plants. I don’t mind if it’s a little wonky and isn’t made with the season’s must have flowers, as it’s as much about the gathering and making as it is about the finished wreath.


How to make a rustic Christmas wreath


If you’d like to make a country style foraged Christmas wreath, here’s what to do.


making Christmas wreath with fresh foliage


Cut a few willow whippy branches of willow and twist and twine them together to make a circle. Tie them with string if you think your circle might spring apart. Alternatively, buy a wire ring which has the advantage of being round and won’t fall to pieces.


The trimmings from your Christmas tree are excellent foliage for your wreath. I presume you trim and shape your Christmas tree? Snip a little off the back to make it fit close to the wall? Prune back any wayward branches? Haven’t you read our tips for decorating your Christmas tree? Some people worry about cutting anything off their tree, but I always do, just to give it a good shape. Also, the offcuts are very useful.

As well as your Christmas tree trimmings, cut some holly, ivy, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme or anything green about 20 – 30 centimetres long. The larger your base, the longer your stems will need to be.

Binding foliage for country style Christmas wreath

Using florists wire, bind the greenery to your base. Place a few stems on the base, wind the wire around to hold them firm and then lay the next stems on top to hide the wire and continue to wind the wire round the stems and base, working your way around the circle. When you get back to the beginning, gently lift the heads of the first stems, bind the final stems and then drop the first heads back down to cover the wire. Cut and secure the end of the wire.


Collect some pretty seed heads, berries (fake or real), fruit, feathers, baubles or anything else that takes your fancy and poke and weave them into the wreath by slipping them under the wire. If you can’t do this, wire them in separately or stick them on with a hot glue gun. This is the chance to cover any bits of wire that may be showing.


Choose how you want to hang your wreath. Are you decorating it with a ribbon? Will the ribbon hang at the top or the bottom? Decisions, decisions. Either wind the ribbon around and tie a bow or make a ribbon bow and attach it to the wreath with wire or glue. If your ribbon is at the bottom, make a hanging loop at the top with a piece of twine or ribbon.

Find a door, hang your wreath …

Christmas wreath from the hedgerow

… stand back and admire.

Simple triangle shaped Christmas wreath

Of course, you don’t have to make a circular wreath. Tie some sticks together in a triangle shape and decorate as little or as much as you like.

twiggy heart shaped wreath

Make a heart shaped wreath.

Giant Christmas wreath hanging from ceiling

Make a giant wreath and hang it from the ceiling. Using the same technique, but on a larger scale, this wreath is a metre across and dangles from above.

If you don’t have the time or the greenery, buy a plain fir wreath and personalise it with your own decorations.

Whichever you choose, have fun.

Advent Calendars

Do you hang up an Advent calendar at the beginning of December? Perhaps you make your own and lovingly fill it with tiny gifts or burn an Advent candle. Maybe you prefer to take part in the #FoodBankAdvent reverse advent calendar.

Advent calendars used to be so simple when they were just a bit of cardboard printed with a snowy scene dotted with tiny doors that were opened every day to reveal a picture. I can still remember the anticipation of opening the door each day and being unable to resist sneaking a peak, ahead of time, at the nativity scene behind the double doors of the twenty fourth. It was easy to open the doors without anyone noticing as we were only allowed to fold, not tear, the doors so that after Christmas the calendar could be put away and brought out the following December. Because that’s what you did in the days before our present throwaway society.


These days, Advent calendars seem to be less about marking the days until Christmas and more about conspicuous consumption. Toys, sweets and jewellery fill children’s Advent calendars while some adults need a luxury treat every day of December with Advent calendars containing gin, perfume, make-up and probably anything you can think of. One year, we tried a Drink Advent, the idea being to have a different drink each evening. Not all alcoholic, I hasten to add. It all started so well with hot chocolate, gin cocktails, lemonade and mulled wine. By the tenth, we were flagging and in the middle of December gave the whole thing up. If only I’d had the forethought to plan ahead and written a list.

Reverse Advent Calendar

Reverse Advent Calendar fpr #FoodBankAdvent

Last year, Ruth set up a Foodbank donation point in the Christmas shop and I was intrigued by a little boy and his mother who brought in two bulging carrier bags filled with food. They explained that they’d done a Reverse Advent Calendar, putting something into a bag for the Foodbank for each day.

I’d always been a bit sceptical about the food donations as it seems an inefficient way to collect, with all the running around to donation points and sorting out food, some of which may be inappropriate or unsafe (such as cans of soup that are nearly fifty years old); giving money seemed more useful as it could be used to buy the right things, in bulk. But having spoken to that little boy, I realised how inclusive it is to donate food. He’d helped choose what to donate and had obviously discussed with his mother why they were doing it. Talking with others who came in to donate, we agreed that picking out food (and other basic essentials), particularly when we’re doing our own Christmas food shopping, makes us think about other people’s situations in a way that dropping a few coins into a collection tin could never do.

Our local Foodbank is one of over 400 foodbanks giving emergency food and support to people in crisis across the UK in the network run by The Trussell Trust and we have a donation point in the Christmas Shop. If you want to make a donation to your local foodbank, they probably have a list of things that they need each month and a special Christmas list. The Braintree area Foodbank’s  Christmas list includes tins of meat, Christmas cakes, biscuit selections, tubs of sweets, mince pies and bottles of squash as well as toiletries such as toilet rolls, shampoo, shower gel, wet wipes, toothbrushes and toothpaste, which should be donated by the beginning of December.

How many days until Christmas festive dog

We’ll each add our twenty-four things to the big collection box by the end of this week and then, because we need a little excitement in our lives, we’ll count down to Christmas using this little fellow. And possibly hang up an Advent calendar too.