Over half the schools in Northern Ireland Closed. There was traffic chaos the night before, and the roads were treacherous in the early frozen hours this morning. This was a day that, for us, Christmas had begun.

part of the holly harvest

At the weekend we got our Christmas tree and it stood under-decorated and forlorn in the corner until today. We unpacked the Christmas decorations and ruthlessly decided that we had too much. This year, less is more. We wrapped up against the winter chill and ventured out as a family to the hedgrows near the cottage. We had our scissors and buckets and we went Holly harvesting. The holly is a typical Christmas season decoration. It is still thick and alive with green in the depth of winter. A few weeks ago we watched Edwardian farm and learned that holly used to be tied to a rope and used to clean the chimney. Alternatively, a chicken can be used, being dropped down and its distress ensured a clean shoot. This option is not the best as we have a narrow pipe wood burning stove it is just plain cruel. Tonight I read that the holly option is not advised in Ireland as it is thought to annoy the fairies!

winter rose hips

Earlier that day I did something a little clichéd for this weather. I went for a long walk, through deep snow, to the nearest village to get the little man his food. To be honest, we had plenty but I needed very little excuse to get out roads untouched by cars. It is the first time I have ever popped out to the shop in my winter mountain boots.

the village burn

Meanwhile, the lovely Sharon built a snowman. The powdery conditions required a bit of skill to get him to stick. She took great delight in showing him to me, and I took delight in telling her that it was only a matter of time before the chickens discover that his eyes are made out of clusters of raisins.

the snowman preparing to hug the chickens