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A Cackleberry Christmas: Diary of a Cackleberry Farmer: December 2015 Edition
Welcome to the Christmas Edition of the Diary of a Cackleberry Farmer. Thank you for joining me once again and I hope you find this as interesting as those preceding it.
As this is also the last of this series for the year 2015, I'd like to tell you how much I appreciate each and everyone of you who take the time to read and/or comment on my hubs and to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and safe festive season however and wherever you may be spending it.
Deck the Halls with Bells of Holly
When we lived in town, or suburbia, it was somewhat of a family tradition to erect the tree and decorate the house on 1st December every year. I am not sure if this was a case of trying to get the family into the Christmas spirit early and maintain the good cheer until Christmas Day, or if it was really just putting on a show for any guests or visitors who may happen across the threshold.
Since doing the "tree change" and relocating to our rural property, along with our kids moving out of home, the December 1st tradition has flown out the window. We now decorate whenever the mood overtakes us. Out here few visitors just drop in and we usually know well in advance if we are expecting any.
This year Kathy and I unpacked and dusted off the Christmas tree on December 12th and didn't put up the tinsel and other decorations until a week later. Our second son Jared, his wife Marie and their four young boys were coming to spend an early Christmas Day with us on Sunday 20th, so as long as we had the house decorated by then all would be good.
Kathy wraps the presents each year (she is much better than I) while I write out the cards and gift tags. Apparently my writing is neater.. or so I am told.
Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree!
Here at the Cackleberry Farm we never spend a fortune on Christmas decorations, and have been using the same artificial trees now for at least the last five years. OK I admit I'm a little stingy (or thrifty as I prefer to say) but I don't believe in spending a fortune on something you only use for a few days each year. In fact, come early January, they just go straight back into the large packing carton they came out of, still fully assembled, decorations and all. They'll be dusted off and cobwebbed for the festive season next year.
I do admit that this year we did invest in some new baubles and tinsel to change the colour scheme and add a little newness to the display. I even draped a little silver tinsel over the wisteria tree outside our front entrance to greet any visitors as they drive up.
Food, Glorious Food!
Our biggest expense, as far as the festive season goes this year, was food. The main reason for this was that we were hosting the Christmas meal (lunch) and wanted to ensure no one left still hungry. We had borrowed a large glass front commercial refrigerator, placed it on the back verandah and stocked it up with a fine selection of meat, salads, fruit and drinks.
The day before I collected and chopped wood and Kathy baked a ham and a large chicken in our outdoor cob/pizza oven (no the chicken was not one of the cackleberry farm's permanent feathered residents).
The weather is so hot in Queensland at this time of year that cold meat and salad is a much more sensible option than hot roast meat and vegetables, especially for a lunch time meal. Our visitors brought roast lamb, a platter of deliciously stuffed eggs, and a bottle of wine to add to the fare.
When Kin Comes a Callin'
It had been more than a year since this son Jared and his family had last visited so we were anxiously looking forward to the day, and it didn't disappoint. The two older boys, Timothy and Ashton had stayed with us on a few previous occasions over the school holidays, but two year old Jordan could not remember the only time he had visited our home previously. For recently turned one year old, Dylan this was very exciting and his first time at the Cackleberry Farm.
This early Christmas celebration was a welcome distraction to the family as they are still all grieving the recent loss of their one month old mastiff cross, Bella, from the deadly "Parvo" virus. The children were delighted to be enthusiastically greeted by our three dogs Coco, Ginger, and Jackson.
Soon after they arrived we sat down around the Christmas tree to open presents, but just one each, as it still wasn't officially Christmas Day and everyone would still want something to open on the 25th. Besides Santa never comes early. The part I like best is seeing the smiles and excitement on the children's faces a they rip the paper off their presents eager to reveal what is inside.
The Grand Ballroom
In our house we have one large open-plan area that we refer to as simply "the big room", however a number of our friends have dubbed it "the grand ballroom" due to it's size. This room normally houses Kathy's sewing/craft area, our library, and my office.
In preparation for the big day we reorganised it so that we could do all our entertaining in the one area (and watch the kids at the same time). This room already houses a sofa, so we placed an extra armchair in there as well as a dining table and six chairs.
Another secret to the "big room" or "grand ballroom" is that hidden for most of the year beneath two craftwood sheets and an assortment of fabric, craft supplies and sewing equipment is a 4 foot x 7 foot pool table. This was cleared off so that the easily bored older boys (including my son Jared and myself) could be kept entertained while the babies played with toys (we still keep a collection here for grandchildren's visits) and the women chatted about children, various crafts and whatever things women talk about.
I am not being sexist here. We invited Kathy and Marie to play pool as well but they both declined, saying they preferred to just watch. Besides, I kept them supplied with tea, coffee and nibbles as required.
When we had played enough pool and snooker, we replaced the craftwood sheets on the table and transformed it into a ping pong/table tennis table for a change of pace. The only time it gets used for these games is on the occasions that we entertain visitors. So I like to make the most of it.
Sharing Christmas lunch with family was a delight and began with the snapping of bonbons/Christmas crackers, wearing paper crowns and reading out corny jokes. The food was delicious, with everyone eating more than they should and expressing their satisfaction. Thank you Lord for the blessing of this feast!
We'll also be eating left-overs for the next two days, and on the Cackleberry Farm nothing goes to waste as the chickens, dogs and cats make short work of any scraps. If there is anything they don't eat it goes into the compost bin.
Where's the Animals?"
"What's a Cackleberry Farm hub without animals?" I hear you ask. OK, you are right, I do need to devote at least a paragraph to my feathered and four-legged friends.
One of the favourite activities our grandchildren enjoy participating in is an "egg (cackleberry) hunt", in fact it is the first thing they ask when they come to visit, "Pa John can we please go and look for eggs?" I gladly agreed for them to do just that and because our chickens free range and frequently change their nesting sites it can keep the children occupied for quite awhile. After about 30 minutes they came racing in excitedly holding up two eggs, for which I congratulated them and directed to place in the refrigerator.
The next day, with our Christmas celebration behind us, it was back to reality once more. With the mid-Summer days now being longer and hotter the sun rises early. As the sunrise acts as a catalyst for our animals also thinking it is breakfast time, sleeping in at the Cackleberry Farm is wishful thinking.
Our black and white cat Basil is self-appointed (well as far as I know) spokesman/person/animal/cat...oh whatever, and wakes me every morning at 5:00 am. honestly I never need an alarm clock. He jumps onto the bed, my chest, and begins to meow and doesn't cease until I give in and reluctantly get out of bed. The action of me rising has like a domino effect with the three other cats suddenly materializing from other corners of the house where they have been sleeping.
By the time I visit the bathroom and reach the kitchen I am now also being followed excitedly by the three dogs. With a bag of dry dog food in one hand, a bag of cat food in the other, and feeling distinctly like the Pied Piper, I proceed outside to fill their respective bowls.
They say every action influences another, and the moment I open the door and begin to empty the first few biscuits of pet food into a bowl, the chooks/chickens come running. So, after feeding the dogs and cats, I then have to fill the poultry feeder with grain and laying pallets to keep them happy. Once I have appeased the demands and appetites of the hungry hordes I can return to bed for another hour or two. Whether or not I can go back to sleep is another matter.
How should we offer this season's greetings?
Before or After Christmas? That is the Question.
As I began to write this Christmas Edition of the "Diary of a Cackleberry Farmer" I was faced with a quandary. Do I write this hub before or after Christmas? I surmised that most readers would probably be searching for topics relating to "Christmas" either before or on 25th December, not after. At least not after Boxing Day.
Ultimately my decision to publish before hand was due to the fact that our "Cackleberry" Christmas was really celebrated on 20th December. We will still be celebrating on December 25th but will be in Brisbane with our eldest son Daniel and his family on that day. His family is now too big to all travel in the one vehicle so it is easier for Kathy and I to go there for Christmas. We have arranged for nearby friends to feed our dogs, cats and chickens while we are away for two nights.
Where to Next Year?
With family scattered all over this big country it is virtually impossible for us all to get together to celebrate the Festive Season, but with the aid of Skype and Facetime we will still be able to chat face to face with those we can't be with in person.
Where will we spend Christmas next year? Who knows at this stage. It's too early to tell, but our daughter Jody, husband Skott and son Logan are moving to Ipswich, Queensland next year so hopefully we will be able to share Christmas with them.
Maybe our youngest son Trent, wife Cheenee and sons Taidan and Cyrus will also be able to make the long journey down from Darwin. Here's hoping.
Anyway, here's wishing anyone reading this a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Hanukkah, or whatever you celebrate. I wish you peace and prosperity for the New Year as well, and look forward to bringing you more from the Cackleberry Farm in January.
p.s. I apologise for the lack of foul language in this hub. I promise more of that in the next edition.
© 2015 John Hansen