The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


cottage kitchen at night2.jpgI always used to buy mistletoe at Christmas. I like the tradition stretching back over the centuries. When I think of mistletoe and holly I imagine great halls, a good mix of happiness and people. Visitors kicking the snow off their boots and warming their hands on a vast log fire. Everyone enjoying the party. From the hosts to the children and dogs weaving between their legs.

Even when I lived alone I always arranged the mistletoe on the picture that hangs on thw wall behid the sofa. Secretly hoping that a white knight would drop by and see the mistletoe.

On the run up to our first Christmas together Danny observed my preparations with interest. When I returned triumphant from Newmarket, having finally found mistletoe, he face dropped as I draped it over the picture frame.
“If X and I sit on the sofa will she expect me to kiss her?”
“Of course not.”
Playing safe he stuck to the armchair for the day.

The cottage ceilings are so low that we don’t hang mistletoe just inside the front door. It would hit people in the face and give then a fright rather than providing an excuse for a hug and a kiss.

There is quite a bit of mistletoe growing in Cambridge. I spotted it on some trees in the botanical gardens a few Christmases ago. Probably 80 feet up and way out of reach.

I’m now working in Cambridge and there is mistletoe growing on a distant tree. Well, I think that it’s mistletoe. I don’t like to bring binoculars. It’s a very quiet road. I am sure my arrival has been noted by the neighbours. Jalopy usually causes quite a stir. When I took photographs of the tree this afternoon the net curtains opposite were suddenly alive with fluttering fingers.

I’d noticed that this tree was filled with birds. Small clusters dotted all over the branches. Larger birds on the sturdier branches and teeny bird drifting in and bouncing on the twigs at the top. It is like a fantasy tree in a children’s book. A sort of arboreal United Nations.

Loads of different small birds wait in line to eat from the feeders in the shrub outside our kitchen window. When a bigger bird appears such as a thrush or woodpigeon, all the smaller birds fly away immediately.

The size of the Cambridge tree is probably the answer. Or perhaps the city birds have just learnt to coexist happily with less space in between.

My photographs of the birds clustered in the mistletoe tree didn’t work. I was using my mobile telephone and it’s not great for distant views. So I’ve put up a picture of our nest. The kitchen window is the first thing I glimpse when I climb out of Jalopy at the end of the day.

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  1. wow – a decorator, what an exciting job indeed! yay! i bet that’s lots of fun! i agree with christmas dream time too! lush! have a good weekend!

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Louisa,

    Danny laughed so much at the idea of having to kiss every delivery man! The last time that I bought it was so expensive £2.50 for a teeny piece!

    Hi Celia,

    I’ve heard that it’s really hard to get the birds to do what you want with mistletoe.

    Two more great ideas for walks. Thanks for the tips. There is nothing like a walk in the snow in the grounds of Ickworth Hall, followed by a bowl of hot soup at The Beehive.

    Hi rhall,

    Gosh, you must have loads of mistletoe! I love the look of it when the trees have lost their leaves – great orbs.

    I’d love to see Oregon. Perhaps one day.

    Glad that you are enjoying the blog.

    Hi nà,

    Christmas is the ultimate time to dream for me. I have new jobs all the time as I am a decorator – the last job lasted 4 months (unusual). So it’s new people and places all the time. Great for picking up new ideas and making new contacts and friends.

    Hi Virginia,

    Oh lucky you with your own mistletoe. I think that it’s magical and romantic too.

    We have realised that we only have one female guinea fowl – Cloud. She does make a racket. Now we are wondering about the future of the males…

    Hi Amanda

    I remember that too. Years ago people had far more holly, ivy, mistletoe etc in their houses at Christmas than they do nowadays. I reckon that this is because Christmas decorations have improved so much and loads of people don’t have access to holly and so on anymore.

    Hi Sara,

    The cottage looks so snug on a winter’s night.

    I’d love to write a book one day!

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Your natural Christmas decorations sound wonderful. I am hoping to make a wreath from the front door this year. My latest client is removing a lot of holly from his garden so it’s the perfect excuse. I have a ring and there’s moss on the cottage roof.

  3. A real mistletoe day here today- silver mist,glowing sunrise and sunset. I hung my mistletoe in the apple tree near the front door last year hoping the birds might oblige and start a plant off on one of the branches- too soon for anything to grow yet though. I love making evergreen wreaths for christmas,collecting foliage and berries from the garden-in our previous house we had beams across the kitchen ceiling and I liked to find a twiggy branch, hang it up with invisible fishing line and then suspend fruit and decorations from it above the table-simple, cheap and just magic.

  4. farmingfriends

    The photograph is welcoming and your writing makes me want to sit down and read a book written by yourself. I really enjoy your writing.
    Sara from farmingfriends

  5. I remember going to parties as a child and being captivated by bunches of mistletoe and how it always seemed to make people a bit giggly. Of course as an adult I realise that the giggles could have been due to too much booze but still they’re fond memories.

    People don’t seem to put it up so much now. So many traditions could be lost or wont mean as much.

  6. Hello Fiona. Until we moved to Herefordshire I don’t think I’d ever seen Mistletoe growing, even in nearby Oxfordshire. I think it is very mystical and romantic. Now we see it everywhere, the trees are laden with round bunches of it, we even have some in our garden, just within reach. I feel very excited being able to gather from our own tree, even if it is only as few pieces. We did try to “plant” some berries in a tree but they haven’t worked, it seems the birds do a much better job. By the way, the remaining guinea fowl do make rather a racket now, mostly the females with their two-tone call, do yours?

  7. how lovely all your daydreaming of festivities in times gone by, and of birds in bushes, it’s quite contagious and has got me dreaming now! thanks! mistletoe! holly! yay! do you have a new job?

  8. You and Danny should come to visit us in Oregon sometime, just to see the misletoe if nothing else. Old oak trees are covered with it. When the leaves are gone it’s very noticeable – I don’t care for it to be truthful. This fall a man asked us if he could harvest some of it. He employs many people to prepare it for market, mostly takes it to Chicago. He and his crew harvested many tons, a huge truckload! There’s still lots of it in the treetops. Love your site!

  9. For years I’ve been trying to get some mistletoe to grow on the apple and hawthorn in our garden – no success yet. But it’s an excuse to go for a walk in the New Year to collect mistletoe berries. Our favourite romantic mistletoe walks are the magnificent lime avenue at Kentwell Hall at Long Melford – vast spheres of mistletoe in the trees, and the park at Ickworth Hall where the mistletoe grows mainly on hawthorn bushes.

  10. I agree christmas isn’t the same without mistletoe,holly and ivy. You don’t see much mistletoe around anymore, but i managed to get hold of some at the Winchester christmas market last week. I,m not sure where to hang it though i had thought of the front door, but as i,ve done most of my shopping online this year i don’t fancy kissing every delivery driver that turns up with my parcels.

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