The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Happy Easter

Tulips and seeds

I can never work out whether I prefer the Christmas holiday to the Easter break.

Christmas, snuggling in front of a roaring log fire, Christmas stockings and making surprise presents. The carol services that always move me to tears. The indulgence, the feasting and the guilt – is anyone that I know sitting alone?

A psychiatrist friend confided last Christmas that this period is a very busy time for his profession. Hopes and dreams can so easily be smashed. So many of us are seduced by the commercial dream and then left forlorn – it’s sad but true.
“Every single family has dysfunctional elements,” he explained. “It’s normal. But people don’t realise this.”

I must admit that I was very surprised to hear his comment. And a tiny bit relieved. I would have loved to have had children and, although my Christmases are generally happy, I’ve always thought that they would have been a lot better if I’d had my own brood to share the celebration.

Christmas is a magical time for kids. It was for me when I was a nipper. And by now there might have been grandchildren too. The Christmas commercials always show happy families with ‘the right’ complement of grandparents and so on. So secretly I always felt a bit low as I didn’t match up to the norm. My psychiatrist pal did me a favour – I reckon that he is right. You have to accept the status quo and try get the best out of it. I’ve done this 75% for years. From now on I’m aiming for a much higher score.

Easter is a much lighter affair in every sense.

If we are lucky we can sit outside and enjoy the sunshine. There are lambs and piglets in the fields. Flowers are opening beside the hedgerows and in our gardens. It’s a time of deep rebirth and hope.

Who can’t be enchanted by the apple blossom and the buzz of bees searching for nectar? I’m finding my own nectar too. Plants that I thought had turned up their toes in the deep frosts of last winter are pushing strongly though the earth. Life is abundant. The garden is my nursery. It has plants and trees that grow up and thrive but there are always elements that need to be nurtured. A garden needs attention and care but if you design it well the work can be minimal. ATM it’s hands on for me 24/7 – because I love being out there!

A garden is a perfect place to care for yourself too. Forget the expensive spas – a lot of that relaxation is just the dynamic of getting away for a day or so. Raising plants is good for you and a long term fix. The ’Spa’ treatment often happens when you step into your garden. Stand still before you even reach for a tool and bask in the fresh air. If you have birdsong it’s a bonus.

Of course gardening is intriguing and challenging. That’s why it’s so addictive. Plants will not always do what it says that they will do on the seed packet. Even the ‘easy to grow plants’ are independent, deep down inside. So many of my plants show me where they would prefer to grow. And that’s where the magic lies for me. Maddening, tough (grow here d***n you) inspiring and totally absorbing.

The ‘switch off’ element of meditation is inbuilt in most gardeners whether they are tending plants on a balcony, patio or garden. Out in the open air, you quickly achieve the gardening ‘thing’ – the smell of the earth, the weather, fumbling with seed packs where the seed is stuck in the top cut off section. The drama – will I lose precious seed in the fold?  And finally, possibly, hopefully the final flowering or harvest. And then there’s the watering… It can be fun if you are growing something special.

If you don’t grow plants, just try it and see. Gardening is no longer the province of knowledgeable souls, it’s open to everyone from 1 – 210 years old. If you can plant a seed in compost you’re in! It doesn’t have to be veg. Flowers are good to deflect your carbon footprint. If you are feeling generous, trees do a lot more good too. But between you and me growing plants that you can harvest to eat are truly satisfying. Cress germinated on damp kitchen towel in a plastic tomato container on a sunny windowsill is always a winner with me. Egg and cress sandwiches with home grown cress are to die for.

Back to the burgeoning life at the cottage this Easter holiday. Dr Quito led his coterie of Min Pins out to the warmest spot in the garden to bask in the sun. Old limbs eased by warmth and a good dose of vitamin D. Years ago I had a rough coated Griffon (Thisbe) who used to sunbathe on her back – by the end of the summer her small pink belly had turned a deep hazelnut brown.

In the chicken run our new girls have finally settled. They seem very content to scratch about, take dust baths and present us with eggs every day. They sunbathe too – on the roof of the Ken Doherty Day Centre – their bodies flop flat with their legs stretched out. They always look as if they are playing dead but, unlike kids, happy to be out of the game.

This Easter was good, in fact I can’t remember an Easter that wasn’t good. My mum was over from Cambridge and we had the Brothers Pug too. Danny roasted an excellent leg of New Zealand lamb and had picked up a chunky Gressingham duck on the Tesco CFC.

So we all ate well, had fun, enjoyed the sun, the birdsong and butterflies. The garden has shifted up to top gear with promise of summer – let’s hope that it’s a good one this year.

Happy Easter everyone! I do hope that you had a great time. Thank you for reading this blog – like the sunshine and overnight rain your visits are always very much appreciated.


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10 Comments

  1. skybluepinkish

    I love both holidays. Spiritually I prefer Easter and it is certainly less frenetic (particularly if like me your children are choristers)! From the point of view of the year I love the promise and potential of the bounty of the summer and autumn I think I make more new year resolutions at Easter than in January. I think that one of the “problems” with Christmas is that it is a very long holiday with nothing after it (such as the promise of summer)to lift senses dulled by 10 days that for so many people just don’t live up to their very high expectations.

  2. Heather

    I love Easter. I actually like it better than Christmas. Living in Sydney, the weather is sooo much better at Easter and we can have an enjoyable family holiday without all the fuss and running around that happens at Christmas. Making some hot cross buns and buying easter eggs is much easier!

  3. ChickPea

    Oooooooooooohhhhh!!!!! Woooooooooooooooowwwwww!!!!!

    What a treat it is to call by and feel the new spring grass underfoot, bright sunshine and spring breezes that reach out from your glorious blog – you always make my day – Thank You! x

  4. Raenbow

    Happy Easter to you all.

    I agree with your comment about gardening being relaxing and giving pleasure. As someone who had never lifted a spade, since becoming interested in gardening and growing my own, the pleasure I feel when seeing my sugar peas peeping out in the greenhouse, the onions poking through the soil,or the first eggs from the chickens of the year , give greater pleasure than any expensive day at the spa(something I only dream about since simplifying my life)!!

  5. teawithhazel

    i loved your evocative and thought provoking comments..i love both traditions but agree that there is less pressure to perform at easter..my children and i and a couple of other family members had a casual afternoon tea of hot cross buns (my daughters and i made them) tea, coffee and french champagne! I agree with you that gardening (especially vegetable gardening) is a meditation..what joy to see a huge pile of garden and kitchen waste turn into compost..its feels alchemical..

  6. Juanita

    Happy Easter to you, my dear. Thank you for an especially lovely post.

  7. I much prefer Easter – there’s not the pressure or all the hard work of Christmas which we are driven to make perfect, running ourselves ragged in the process.

  8. What a lovely, thoughtful post – I really enjoyed reading it so thank you.

  9. Oh, yes, I can absolutely identify with this. As a Wiccan and a pagan, and seeing the divine in everything, Easter has all the promise of growing things, and chocolate too! Christmas (Yule) is for log fires and snuggling. There’s magic in everything you know.

  10. There always seems less potential for anti-climax with the Easter celebrations. The magazines and adverts are still full of perfect houses with perfectly decorated tables for Easter lunch, but there doesn’t seem quite the same pressure to do it all.

    I think the retailers are doing their best to change that…

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