cold weather we do not yet have Christmas traditions at Unity. This year, we have to make them.
Using local materials from local vendors, we've added garlands of white pine and fir to the barn, pasture gate and house entryway. We've hung wreaths on the sheds and added swags of juniper to our light posts.
Mistletoe kissing balls surround the front door. We've decorated a living Christmas tree in front of the house. We've added strings of Christmas lights to selected trees and woven lights into the strands of pine garland.
Our 15 acres are filled with oaks, cedars, pines, birch, and poplar. Hurricane Sandy blew over a few older, dead trees. I've cut them up and split the wood into 3 neat cords for Christmas fires in our stone hearth and wood burning stove (made in 1880).
Indoors we'll find a place to build our model New England village and create a miniature barnyard around the creche from my childhood.
A Lionel train will circle a small indoor Christmas tree that we'll harvest this weekend.
Christmas stockings for my wife and me, our daughter, my father-in-law and our animals will be hung on the chimney with care.
While we do not have reindeer, we do have a four point buck and five does living in our meadow.
Christmas dinner will include a medley of root vegetables from our cellar, Japanese pumpkin (kabocha) simmered in rice wine and soy sauce, potatoes, baked apples, homemade tofu, and blueberry pie.
Life on a farm means that gifts are practical. Warm, waterproof gloves for cold early morning work in the paddocks. A vest to break the chill of a windy day. A few woodworking tools (last year my wife gave me a splitting maul and Swedish forest axe). We make our own soaps on the farm and we'll be giving gifts that range from an oatmeal scrubbing soap to a poppy seed facial soap. I cut up a 100 year old cedar that fell in recent storms and we'll be giving blocks of its aromatic purple wood to keep moths out of closets.
The traditions we're building at Unity Farm will bond me to the place, the citizens (animal and human) living there, and the familiar rituals we create. There is something timeless about working the land and creating a celebration of the season with a loving family around you. We are defined by the experiences, good and bad, in our jobs, our relationships, and our environment. Preparing for Christmas on the Farm has healed the bad, multiplied the good, and given me the equanimity I have yearned for in 2012.
My daughter still has the silver bell she received from our ride on the "Polar Express" in New Hampshire when she was a child. We'll hang it on our first Unity Farm christmas tree and I'm confident that this season we will all be able to hear its sweet, resonant sound.