Garden Diary - December 2023

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Christmas on the Howell Living History Farm
Saturday, 2 December 2023

Santa is coming to Howell Living History Farm, not in a sleigh but on a steam tractor! This takes some careful planning because it takes at least a couple of hours to fire up the boiler, to build up enough pressure to get under way.

The Case steam traction engine is parked in front of the visitors center, gently puffing away.

Look at the throng of adults and children up by the farmhouse. This may be the most popular
of the farm's events. It is also the last event for this year. Next year begins with the ice harvest
on the last Saturday in January. If, that is, winter is cold enough for the pond to freeze sufficiently.

There's a sledge, cosily set up with hay bales spread with blankets, a strap of sleigh bells,
a few bunches of evergreen boughs. Families can take selfies in the 1800s sleigh, which
would have been pulled by the horses on snowy days. This was clearly a popular option.

The farmhouse is open for tours, decked out in all its turn-of-the-century Christmas decorations in the parlor.

The parlor Christmas tree is decorated with homemade ornaments of
old family photographs in bright paper cartouche frames. And garlands.

There's an upright piano in the parlor too, with both greenery and a crèche.
Better yet, there's a pianist playing a selection of Christmas carols. Lovely.

A table is decorated with an oil lamp, a pomander, a spray of yellow berried holly.

I pause to photograph the parlor stove on my way to the kitchen.

The kitchen stove is in use; the presenter is heating cider and making popcorn.

No wonder there's wood to be split, as it keeps getting burned up for practical purposes.

A team of horses hitched to a buckboard have brought a very large xmas tree down
to the farmhouse. It will put up outside, and decorated with treats for the birds.

Volunteers and staff are dressed accordingly in the farm's historical period, circa 1890 to 1910.

Who's this? Certainly not period garb . . . It's an elf. Just look at the ears.

The steam traction engine is on the ridge behind the farm. Periodically there's a shrill scream as it vents, and a plume of steam above the trees. It appears to be moving to the road up to the farmhouse. Santa and Mrs. Claus must be aboard.

Yes! Here it comes, having forded the modest stream
(the bridge we people use is unsuitable for engines!)

Hands over ears as children race along near the road with the shrieking engine.
For all I know the children are shrieking too. But the engine makes it hard to tell.

Santa will be in the parlor, listening to small people and their christmas wishes. Visitors are reminded to stop back at the visitor center for warm drinks, homemade cookies, lunch, and other light refreshments. Check out the gift shop for unique gifts like Howell Farm honey, handmade straps of sleigh bells, forged items made by the farm’s own blacksmith, and other homemade items by the farm's sewing guild. Merry days, happy times, on the Howell Living History Farm.

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