Getting ready for Christmas… without presents

Christmas at the Smallest Smallholding

Even though it’s still 10C outside and not a snowflake in sight, we’re getting ready for Christmas. But this year, my side of the family decided that we are going to eschew the traditional gift-giving element. The more I think about it, the more I think it is a great idea.

Although I absolutely love love love giving gifts (and will try to whenever I can), at 32 I feel so utterly jaded by the constant “buy! buy! buy!” demands everywhere I turn, from Hallowe’en until December 24th. It feels like everything is just tuned in to make you part with your cash, and you’re made to feel that your Christmas will never be complete unless you’ve bought this, that and the other. Maybe I was more oblivious, but as a child in the 80s I don’t remember it being this intense. I didn’t feel like Christmas was so only about gluttony, extravagance and spending. Christmas has become a commercially-fuelled holiday, and has been for a long time. So saying a quiet “no” to a little consumerism will allow us to just enjoy some relaxed family time when Christmas Day comes along.

The Smallest Smallholding Christmas 2015 with Ozzy

Of course I am still more than happy to buy gifts for other family and friends, I do enjoy it… especially now that shopping online means I can avoid the crowds! But I am really tuning out from the non-stop commercialism of it all, and have found myself turning to hygge as my inspiration this year. Yesterday Rich brought the Christmas tree in and I got out our decades-old jumble of tree ornaments out – some inherited from my grandmother, some we bought when we got our first tree together in our early twenties – and we slung lots of lights up. Our living room might still be half renovated after I was forced to stop due to pretty severe tennis elbow, but in my mind it’s still cosy and homely. With the fire going and the animals chilling around us, I felt so warm and comfortable. I wish I had at least a month off to myself to just reset, relax and enjoy life a bit more.



A Homemade Christmas Wreath

How to make a Christmas wreath with a wire ring

My budget is always tight these days, but I don’t want to miss out on some of the festive fun at Christmas. I enjoy decorating the house – those little LEDs lend a certain warmth on the cold, dark, grey December days – and it’s great to see twinkling lights and wreaths appearing on my neighbours’ doors.

As we have a lot of shrubs and foliage growing in and around the Smallest Smallholding, I thought this year I would give making my own wreath a bash. I’ve seen wreaths selling for upwards of £15 – £30 in the shops, and I do not have that kind of cash to splash. So I visited my local craft shop and bought a reusable metal wreath ring for £2.50 and some florist wire for 60p.

Foraging for foliage for my Christmas Wreath

Next, I set about collecting lots of foliage that I could use in the wreath – dense conifer from the bits that overhang from next door’s tree, two types of variegated ivy, some pyracantha (although I’ve realised since that this wilts really quickly), holly and even a few sprigs of olive (felt a bit more biblical and gorgeous texture!). I was planning on using any extra bits that we cut off the Christmas tree (Nordmann Fir) but in the end we left it as was!

Here’s my quick guide to making a wreath:

Homemade frugal christmas wreath

What You’ll Need:

Wire Frame
Florist Wire & Scissors

How to make a homemade Christmas wreath on a metal ring

1. Take the largest, densest pieces of foliage (fir, spruce, conifer etc) and lay them out over the metal frame so that they fan out as they go around in a circular fashion.
2. Secure the foliage with florist wire – the more secure for this ‘base layer’ the better
3. Start adding in the long pieces of ivy – use several pieces and attach to the base layer and frame at both ends of the cutting and in the middle to help the foliage bend with the frame.
4. Keep going around, adding ivy and any bushy bits of foliage so that the wreath is as symmetrical as possible. You can tuck any stray bits in behind other ivy leaves and use the leaves to also hide the florist wire.
5. Once your ivy has been added all the way around, start putting in the “interesting accents”… bits of foliage like holly and olive that add colour and texture. Try to space these out evenly but it doesn’t have to be mathematically correct! You can start pushing these sprigs in without securing with wire if your ivy is dense enough.
6. Once you’re happy with your wreath, turn over and pack the back with moss to help keep the foliage moist and prevent wilting. If the moss hasn’t been freshly picked you can spritz it with some water.
7. Cut a small length of garden wire and create a loop for your door, securing the loop to the wire frame on the back.
8. Hang your wreath and enjoy your handywork!

We’re getting set for Christmas here at The Smallest Smallholding – Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!

Ozzy and the Christmas decorations

Smallest Smallholding bun bun Ozzy enjoys the warm fire