Christmas Homesteading When life is tough

Simple Christmas Joys

Every day, in some small way, since the week before Thanksgiving, we’ve been adding simple joys to our home in the form of all-natural, totally free Christmas decorations. We’ve made uncomplicated adornments, yet elaborate messes of pine needles, trails of hot glue, and squished red berries. And memories.

I’ve never had so much fun anticipating Christmas. And I haven’t been shopping or wrapped one present. We haven’t even picked out our tree yet.

Today I’m sharing six simple ways we’ve decorated our old farmhouse this Christmas without spending one dime or requiring one ounce of Martha-Stewart-ish abilities There’s even a video of me stapling tree bark. Yep.

Investing in Each Other

Instead of the typical spreading ourselves thin, my two teen daughters and I have invested ourselves into making simple, natural decorations together. Just a little at a time. In the process, we’ve been investing in each other.

That last investment has been too sparse within our family this year. The reasons why we’re so eager to experience simple joys of Christmas every day this month? They’re ugly. Cancer. Loss. Pain. Those are the reasons my family is eagerly embracing simple joys this year. You see, this time last year I was preparing for my mom’s funeral, having just lost her to an aggressive evil called “cancer.” Within a month I was planning my dad’s funeral. His loss was even more sudden and colossal for me. Then a precious daughter had spinal fusion surgery and suffered, and is still suffering, devastating results from that surgery.

No, we didn’t have any decorations last year; we barely even noticed the holiday last winter.

We did one thing very well last Christmas. In fact, we’ll be building another gingerbread farm this Christmas.

When Simple Joys are More Precious

If I’m honest, I’ll admit that all of the seasons since have been blurred. I barely noticed my last 12 months. But our decorations in this new season of hope are helping me regain a focus. A perspective. A reminder of true joy. Unto us a child is born! One who will right wrong and defeat the vilest of murderers and the father of lies. (John 8:44One who will wipe my tears and quiet me with his love and sweet singing. (Revelation 21:4 and Zephaniah 3:17)There is true reason to celebrate!

After big loss and deep pain, simple joys are more precious.

I wrote about when mom was told she was going to have to battle cancer, loosing Mom to cancer and Dad to a broken heart, the 4 stages of grief, and comforting resources. If you too are facing severe grief and loss, it is my sincere hope that my words there will offer comfort and a literary hug.

I won’t claim that any of our decorating ideas are overly original. Well, maybe stapling tree bark into rings is a little original (or weird). And they sure aren’t complicated. But they also aren’t “easy” by today’s standards, when everyone wants to pop open a pre-lit tree, find an outlet, and be done.

Her first idea, for example, consisted of grabbing buckets, jars, and shovels and scouring the woods for miniature Charlie Brown trees.

Yes, as I always say, simple joys require hard work. But this work is oh-so-good–this work of being elbow-to-elbow with my teens, gathering supplies from nature; bellowing Christmas carols together, right along with Crosby and Cole; and creating something pretty while talking about deep subjects and frivolous ones, side-by-side.

So here’s a round up of a few simple joys we’ve brought into our home this season, with the hope that one may inspire you to do a little holiday work too, because the payout promises to be worthwhile.

Unearth a Tiny Tree, or Ten.

While her largest treasure looks adorable in my Uncle Roger’s old wooden nail bucket, and my unearthed mini trees fit perfectly in my old enamel pans, the rest of our tiny trees are scattered around the house in Mason jars, tied up with scraps of gingham.

Spice up Some Salt Dough.

We uped the wow factor of our salt dough ornaments this year by adding cinnamon, then we tied some with red checked fabric as ornaments and strung others on twine for window garlands.

This is the recipe we used:

  • 4 cups flour
  • 8 Tbs. ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup salt
  • 3/4 to 1 cup water

Mix well, using just enough water to make a workable dough. Roll out to 1/8″ thickness and bake on greased cookie sheet, at 300 degrees, for 30-45 minutes or until ornaments are hard. (Don’t forget to make your holes for hanging before you bake.) When cool, spray with sealer if you would like. But even without sealer these ornaments will store well in a dry, sealed container for many years.


Oranges and Stars and Twine, oh my!

This craft seemed more exotic than it is, at least in my mind, and it was even more aromatic than the cinnamon ornaments when it was baking.

Simply slice 2-3 oranges, crosswise, into roughly 1/8″ slices. Line a few cookie trays with foil sprayed with cooking spray, and bake the slices for 6-9 hours at 200 degrees. Make sure the oranges are no longer soft or sticky when you take them out of the oven. Pierce the dried slices with a toothpick and string twine through them to make ornaments, garlands, or wreath decorations. I love the way the slices in our window garlands glisten and shine in the morning hours.

Selah’s birth has been the highlight of our homesteading experience. I wrote about it here.


Make Some Tree Rings.

I hopped on facebook for a minute last week to show how we make this beautiful birch bark garland. Yep, this is the part where some may say I’m a little weird, stapling bark circles. So far, we’ve made enough garland for our thin, artificial tree that stands in our carriage house. If we keep peeling and stapling, we’ll add some birch garland to our front porch as well.

I’ve been sharing each day’s new decoration as it unfolds over on my facebook page. Join me there if you’d like.


Wrap it up and Hang it.

We used to have a wild grape vine that grew along our back fence in a previous home, in a previous state. Most winters I would long to clear the clutter of vines that lingered after the leaves had fallen, so I would twist the thin, pliable branches into a tight circle and the girls would use it to decorate their backyard playhouse. Kayla shared with me last month that she remembered that with fond amazement, how I could make a beautiful wreath from clutter I had yanked from around a fence post, and asked if we could forage for vines and I could teach her to work similar magic. She was almost disappointed at the ease of twisting the long twigs then sticking in evergreen and winterberry to create a front-door masterpiece.

Just Stick it Somewhere.

Winterberry is prevalent in our low-lying areas, bordering the marsh, so it was a no-brainer to go clip some branches for a display. I discovered the old sap bucket in our barn attic years ago, and it’s been a part of our Christmas decorations ever since. Once filled with 3 small birch logs with a strand of lights buried around their base, another year overflowing with evergreens, and this year crowned with red jubilant berries.

The shadows cast by our entryway lantern make the front hall even more magical.



For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 9: 6-7

Please follow along!

Please take a second to follow along here on SoulyRested to catch up on a few of my memorable mishaps, discover fascinating things about my centuries-old farmhouse, glean a little parenting/homeschooling insight from this momma who’s been failing at the effort for almost 2 decades, or enjoy the inside scoop on the secrets other legit homesteaders might not tell you.

I hope my focus always encourages you, because simple joys require hard work. Let’s face it, we all need all the encouragement we can get! As soon as you subscribe (in the box at the end of this post), you’ll have immediate access to my Resource Library, which includes many useful printables, including helpful ones related to making backyard maple syrup. And, destined to be the most popular item in my Resource Library–A SWEET TASTE–this giant, full-color, 5-chapter, 33-page eBook is my gift to you… a tiny introduction to Sweet Maple, which will be available in print in 2018!


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Do you have a nativity scene? You’ll love this post: a newbie homesteader ponders the first Christmas.


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4 Comment

  1. I really enjoyed reading about your natural Christmas decorations! I’m amazed at how beautiful they are and how appropriate they are for your old home. You and your daughters are very talented!

    1. Awww, thank you Michelle. I don’t know about how much talent it takes to grab some things in the woods and twist, tie, plant, or wrap them around the house, but it has been a ton of fun. The biggest joy honestly is the wonderful moments I’ve spent with the girls and the memories we’ve made. As always, thanks so much for reading, Michelle!

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