Happy New Year!


Each year, the days after Christmas seem almost suspended in time. There’s little to do on the farm apart from pigeon scaring and life slows down after the pre-Christmas hustle and bustle. Meals become moveable feasts assembled from leftovers and we take long walks around the farm on frosty mornings or in bright winter sunshine.

But after the languor of the Christmas break, life is returning to a more normal routine, albeit at a slower pace so far. The Christmas Tree Barn has been cleared out, the unsold Christmas decorations from the Barley Barn have been packed away and today Stilton & Celery Soup used all that remains of Christmas and New Year food apart from the Christmas cake that seems to go on forever. I’ve taken down some of the decorations so we can recycle the greenery as fire starters because the only newspaper we have to light the fire are fish shaped pieces left over from a New Year’s Eve game of Flip the Kipper and by the end of the weekend I expect all signs of Christmas festivities will be gone.

I like the New Year. New calendars and blank diaries; the promise of days to come; fresh starts and all that. There’s things to do and plans to make. If I was a list maker, I’d be sharpening my pencil and writing a new one now. What about you? Do you look back at the past year or are you leaping into the next one?



Happy New Year!

what to do with your Christmas decorations

Christmas is over. The turkey is finished and the last of the cranberry sauce has been scraped from the dish; the Christmas tree has been hurled out and all the decorations taken down. I know it’s not Twelfth Night until 5th January*, but I like to start the New Year afresh, not weighed down with last year’s detritus, so everything’s swept away.

Most of the Christmas decorations are packed away after a little judicious sorting; thankfully the snowman decorated with cotton wool and other primary school produced decorations have finally disappeared. It seems a shame to throw away the greenery that decorated the house so even though it’s slightly dried up and shrivelled, it’s time to put it to use. Most of the bay leaves will hang in the kitchen, which means I can just reach out to grab a leaf instead of putting on coat and wellies to pick from the garden. Any other dry and combustible greenery will be packaged up to make natural fire starters.

Christmas decorations

How to make natural fire starters

Take a heap of rosemary, bay, marjoram, thyme, Christmas tree needles and pine cones and if necessary, leave them somewhere warm to dry out. Then lay out a handful on a sheet of newspaper together with a little dried orange peel (which makes an excellent fire starter used on its own). I also added some empty walnut shells, a by-product of a banana and walnut cake baking session.

natural fire starter
Fold and roll up the newspaper, twisting the end to enclose your dried herbs. When you next lay the fire, poke a natural Fire Starter package in amongst the logs so that when you light the fire, the herbs will ignite and help the logs catch.

bunches of natural fire starters
You could do this any time of the year. Just select and dry the herbs and use them on barbecues or outdoor ovens. Instead of putting them into packages, you could hang them from a hook or leave by the fire to use a handful at a time.

*Christmas Eve is the first night of Christmas as our ancestors believed the day ended when the sun went down, rather than at midnight as we do. So Twelfth Night is the night of 5th January, the night before Epiphany.