Sixteenth century poet and farmer, Thomas Tusser was right, dear Reader – Christmas really does come but once a year and this one seems to have been and gone in a flash. A blur of feasting and wrapping, cooking and chatting, drinking and games by the fire. The farmhouse always outdoes itself this time of year. Feelings of cosiness abound and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Good job too as there’s the small matter of who would feed and water the animals if we decided to up sticks for the Caribbean. I know I’d hate it, dear Reader. Really I would.
So what did a second Christmas at the farmhouse have in store for us? Well, it saw a homegrown goose gracing the table for the first time. Sadly there were no sprouts from the kitchen garden as the caterpillars got there first – better luck next year on the veg front I hope. I can’t deny that I was dreading the lead up to Christmas with the whole ‘Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat’ but although the geese weren’t nearly fat enough (too much free ranging and not enough slouching on the sofa watching a box set – the geese that is), they tasted rather marvellous. Raising a Christmas goose was a very steep learning curve but you know me, dear Reader, I like a challenge and this year’s efforts certainly haven’t put us off. However, I’ve jotted down a few things to remember. Not least sticking to plucking birds outside, dear Reader. I’m still finding feathers all over the house a week later and the slightest hum of a Michael Buble’s tune will see me reliving the horror of being covered head to toe in feathers and NOT in a Swan Lake Darcey Bussell kind of way. Spitting feathers has taken on a new literal meaning for me.
As much as I love Christmas and all its twinkly lights and feasting, my favourite part of this time of year comes between Christmas and New Year – the slow in-betweens, twixtmas, the lull. The time when I live on a diet of Christmas cake and tea, marmite toast and sloe gin negronis. The time when I shut out the outside world and nestle down with Jerry and the girls, losing myself in a haze of cosy fires and good books. It’s when I remember what I’m grateful for the most.
When we drag ourselves away from the fire, we’ve also been spending a fair bit of time with our three new girls – Betsy, Molly and Meryl. I think that everyone thought it utter madness to get Shetland sheep (they are not known for their ability to cooperate or stay put) but these wily woollies have cast a spell on us all. Even Jerry. As they rush to greet us every time we walk up to the field, I can’t help but feel that sheep at the farmhouse is the icing on the Christmas cake, dear Reader. As with all the arrivals on our smallholding, I can’t imagine the place without them. There’ll be more excitement in the New Year when one more ewe will join us – Myrtle – and we’ll see the bouncing and bleating of our own tiny lambs in 2019.
On the whole, 2018 has been good to us. More renovations, more writing for me. Primrose turning 10, Poppy reaching 7. I must speak to the management. The time just keeps ticking away with no regard for a mother’s need to hit the pause button occasionally, dear Reader. Despite numerous attempts to test whether dogs actually share the whole cat nine lives thing, Monty has managed to survive 2018 relatively unscathed whilst Dora has perfected the art of the withering look to cope with his daily idiocy. The ducks have escaped a cassoulet, the hens seem to love Roger the cockerel and last but by no means least, Jerry retains his title as ‘the most patient man in the universe’ even though his wife tests him with her farmhouse schemes weekly. If you’ve any wishes for 2019 going spare, do offer them up for Jerry. I’ve asked for another dog, dear Reader……
Finally, there’s you. A hearty thanks to all those who still read this little blog, who follow on Instagram or Twitter, champion my scribblings in various mags and share them on social media. It really does mean a lot so thank you. Without further ado, I’m off to begin bribing Jerry with a martini and ushering in another year with a large gin – well you wouldn’t expect anything less, would you? So from me to you, here’s to 2019 – may it be the best yet for us all. Happy New Year, dearest Reader!