Gift From The Woodpeckers-The Yule Log


The burning yule log is symbolic of the light that will return after the dark days of early winter and gives us an excuse to gather with family and friends before a roaring fire. The tradition is an old one, going back to the Druid custom of choosing a large log from an apple or oak tree, lighting it afire, and praying that it would burn forever. In England, the log was selected months before Christmas. Because it was believed that all who brought it in from the woods would be protected against harm for the year, everyone lent a hand, making the event itself a festive time.*


We don’t have a fireplace but this year we have our own version of the traditional yule log. It was a gift.december-18-2008-012-2At the southeast corner of the main house is a silver maple with multiple trunks. It was sort of small when we first bought the house in 1996, but has grown considerably since then. In 2000 when we did the major renovation we had the tree limbed up so as not to hang over the roof and the top shortened so as not to be too top heavy. As happens with prunings of trees or even rose bushes, the cut ends died back some. There have been several nestings of downy woodpeckers in those cut ends and many enjoyable moments listening to the rat-tat-tat of those birds and others as they hunt for tasty insects in the decaying wood.december-18-2008-013-4Recent storms with high winds sent a log from above onto the daylily hill with a loud thump. At this time of year little damage is done to garden plants by the falling tree parts, it is just exercise that we are in dire need of to pick up the fallen branches. This log was fairly large and showed a nice hole drilled from pointy beaks. Hmmm, this gives me an idea.december-18b-2008-021-2Showing unusual restraint in material selection, the log was placed on the glass top deck table and festooned with juniper, holly, ivy and nandina berries. A white candle was snatched from inside the house and fit snugly inside the woodpecker’s hole. Moss was wreathed around to hold the candle tight and some loose berries and leaves finished the job.december-18-2008-022-2The nandina berries needed to be picked to help control the nandina population explosion in our neighborhood. The Gold Coast Junipers were growing into the driveway and the pruned branches will not be missed. The variegated ivy came from the planter on the front porch that gets trimmed up in winter so we can safely enter the house without tendrils grasping our ankles.december-18-2008-030-2

The winter solstice on December 21 is one of the two times each year when the Sun is at its farthest point from the equator and appears to stand still. This year, 2008 this happens on December 21 at 7:04 A.M. EST (4:04 A.M. PST). The word solstice is derived from the Latin sol, or “Sun,” and stitium, or “stoppage.” The days are now starting to get a little longer every day.*


That is the best news for gardeners and civilians alike, spring will return! Hooray!december-18-2008-029-2We thank the resident woodpeckers of all stripes for this timely present to help celebrate the returning light with the yule log.
Happy Solstice!
*From the Old Farmer’s Almanac

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45 Responses to Gift From The Woodpeckers-The Yule Log

  1. Randy says:

    Well good morning Frances! What a creative little rascal you are! I love your yule log and how pretty it is. I hope you have a good day, I’m off to the southern section of the state to do our family Christmas with Momma and Daddy.

    Hi Randy, thanks, you are so funny. I don’t often get called a rascal anymore since the years have piled on to me. 🙂 Have a wonderful and happy holiday season with your family!

  2. Darla says:

    Well if that isn’t just the prettiest yule log! Very creative!

    Hi Darla, thanks. The woodpeckers get all the credit though, I would never have thought of even making one without the log from above! 🙂

  3. A lovely Yule log Frances.
    Solstice blessings

    Hi Karen, thanks so much and happy solstice to you!

  4. VP says:

    What a perfect post for the Winter Solstice. I’m glad that the days will be getting longer from now on 🙂

    Hi VP, thanks so much. One year, pre blogging of course, I wrote down the sunrise time of each morning to see how quickly the days got longer. It was very slow going until March and then it just took off! Now I see that was a waste of time that could be better spent reading blogs! 🙂

  5. I love your yule log. I’m so glad you showed such “unusual restraint” in decorating it. What would it have looked like if you had not? (Ha ha)

    And now we know for sure that each day takes us close to spring! I hope your candle stays lit ’til then!

    Hi Carol, thanks. Hooray for spring peeking through, there are some bulbs tips showing already. As for the restraint, I have been known to overdo things like that, when simple is usually better, something I have learned in my old age! 🙂

  6. tina says:

    Love it Frances. Especially your “showing unusual restraint..” I think it looks lovely, and had you used more materials it would’ve been great too.

    Hi Tina, thanks, but it would not have looked as nice if I had put all the things that I was thinking of pruning on it. Once I get those felcos in hand, nothing is safe! 🙂

  7. Cinj says:

    Wow, those woodpeckers sure were kind to save you the hassle of having to find a proper sized drill bit! 😉 I love that idea. What a great way to celebrate the beginning of winter. Well, at least the calendar tells us it’s winter now when we’ve already had it up here for at least a month.

    I love the idea of the return of sunlight, days up here are WAY too short.

    Hi Cinj, thanks. I would never have thought to make one and had a lot of fun doing it too, those woodpeckers are a good muse! 🙂 We have had lots of cold wintry weather here also, very unusual for us and more is forecast. Bundle up!

  8. Gail says:

    Frances, Happy Solstice Day! I love this day…and its signal that each day will be a bit longer! You’ve created a beautiful Yule Log and it looks wonderful on the patio table! May the magic of the Yule protect you for next year and the rest of this year. Gail

    Hi Gail, thanks and same to you. Me too, it is a turning point towards spring, even if the weather says otherwise.

  9. The yule log is so beautiful! You are so resourceful. My neighbor made me some arrangements using nandina berries, they look so nice amongst the brown stems of less tolerant plants. They are the only color in my garden! I love the thought the days are getting longer from now on.

    Hi Gisele, thanks so much. While the nandinas are way too invasive here and every single house has them as foundation plantings, the berries are quite stunning and perfect for Christmas decor. Hooray for longer days, a reason to cheer for sure.

  10. MNGarden says:

    Frances, the yule log arrangement is lovely.

    Hi Donna, thanks and happy solstice to you!

  11. Frances,

    How nice for the woodpeckers and wind to inspire you!

    Your table decoration is really pretty. I love how you used all the greenery and ornamentation that grows in the garden.

    Shortest day of the year! Hooray!


    Hi Cameron, thanks. I have so much stuff that is usuable and should do more with it. I guess I am spending too much time on the computer to do much decorating! 🙂

  12. Wonderful! How nice of the woodp-s to be so helpful! 😉

    Hi Susan, thanks. Maybe the birds were thanking me for the feeders being kept nice and full! 🙂

  13. Racquel says:

    Very creative way to decorate with found material from the garden Frances. Those woodpeckers gave you a blank canvas to work with this holiday! 😉

    Hi Racquel, thanks. I would not have thought to do it without the bird’s help, they spurred me to get beyond bah humbug! 🙂

  14. gittan says:

    Oh Frances! Such a god idea, and it’s very beautiful as well. I’ve never heard the story about the yule log, so it was a nice story to read aswell.

    Hi Gittan, thanks. I didn’t know the whole story myself, so was happy to learn about it too, and liked the whole idea of *light*.

  15. Phillip says:

    I’m embarrassed to say that the only yule log I was aware of is the one you eat! 🙂 That is very pretty Frances. Enjoy your solstice!

    Hi Phillip, don’t be embarrassed, I didn’t know anything about it either, except that it was shown on a TV station in PA when we were first married 24 hours on Christmas eve, it was a log burning in a fireplace and music playing, no commercials, for 24 hours. I had never even heard of it! Thanks for that and same to you. 🙂

  16. Lola says:

    That is the loveliest “natural” yule log arrangement that I have ever seen. And the candle hole was made just right by a lovely creature/bird for you. I love, love it.
    Happy Solstice day.

    Hi Lola, so nice to see you! Thanks so much, nature is full of inspiration for us!

  17. joey says:

    Lola posted my exact thoughts, Frances. I do believe that is the loveliest Yule Log I’ve ever seen. How creative! I love arrangements cut from greens, plants & flowers in my yard. Happy Solstice Day; a joy for gardeners!

    Hi Joey, thanks so much to you both. I used to do so much more of this sort of thing before the computer abducted my psyche!

  18. easygardener says:

    Your yule log is very beautiful and it’s wonderful that a woodpecker started the whole thing off. The berries are a lovely colour (even if the plant is a thug!)

    Hi EG, thanks. I owe a debt of gratitude to the woodpeckers, maybe an extra suet cake? The nandina berries are hard to beat, if they were difficult to grow, I might treasure them more, but they are perfect for this situation.

  19. marmee says:

    okay i absolutely love this idea. i think i will take a walk into the woods today to find my yule log, if i get it together i will try to post. thanks for sharing this. just beautiful

    Hi Marmee, thanks. I look forward to seeing your own creation, I’m sure it will be lovely for you are very artistic!

  20. chuck b. says:

    “Showing unusual restraint in material selection” That’s funny, right? 🙂

    Now I know what a yule log is.

    The Nandina stems the berries grow on make lovely pretend Christmas trees.

    Hi Chuck, so nice to see you and thanks for visiting. Yes, sarcasm is my second language. 🙂 Maybe you need to make your own yule log. They are made out of cake rolled in whipped cream and iced in chocolate with markings like a log and candy holly berries and leaves. One of these years I might even make one. The nandina is really a pretty plant with nice leaves, it is just too successful around here.

  21. patsi says:

    Love how you turned the wonders in your garden into a holiday decoration. Very pretty. Thanks for the idea.

    Hi Patsi, thanks so much, glad you might have found some inspiration here! 🙂

  22. Jean says:

    That is just so darn cute! You are so talented France.

    My husband uses branch pick-up as his exercise too. 😉 We’ve been waiting for one mighty big branch to fall out of one of our water oak trees. It broke off during one of the hurricanes this September and has been dangling there, too high for us to get at it. I’m afraid it may suddenly thunk down on my head! If I survive, maybe I’ll think of something clever to do with it too. 🙂

    Hi Jean, thanks so much. Falling snags can hurt, hope yours falls soon and with no damage to anyone!

  23. Hey Frances…that is just about the prettiest yule log I have seen. What a wonderful idea to decorate your deck with it! A pleasure as always to drop in here, Kim

    Hi Kim, thanks, what a sweet thing to say. 🙂

  24. Hi Frances~

    This was a lovely post! I love the design you created out of your “yule log”, it’s really beautiful and festive.

    Happy solstice!


    Hi Karrita, thanks so much, glad you enjoyed the gift from the birds. Happy solstice to you also. 🙂

  25. Weeping Sore says:

    Frances and TC – your lovely post is so perfect on this, the shortest day of the year. Your holly yule candle, honor Nature by returning what was hers.
    You have also followed Yule tradition of exchanging Nature’s gifts. Your youle candle – most precious gift of light on this longest night of the year?
    Happy Solstice!

    Hi WS, thanks. TC? Not sure about that one. 🙂 I do like to use what is growing in the garden for decor, it feels right. The gift of light is precious, and the return of spring inspires us all. Happy solstice to you also. 🙂

  26. Philip says:

    Hi Frances,
    Oh, I so loved this post of yours this morning.I did not post then as I had a plan to go out into the world today (and I went out yesterday, but that post will have to wait until the New Year), to see what I could see, and I did! I had a wonderful time in the rain, so rare here in SF, Photographing and exploring: a time which hopefully will be in new posts. The image that was throughout in my mind was your display: your homage to the season. It is so beautiful.
    A gift to you!
    A perfect “windfall” of good will towards all!
    And to all good men, women, children and from all our friends in the natural world.
    A candle you have shown: of hope, goodness and promise for all.
    Thank you, Frances

    Oh Philip, that makes me feel so happy, to imagine you out with camera in hand exploring in the rain. The gift from the woodpeckers was quite special, on so many levels, and I read into it the same as you with the candle lighting the way for hope and goodness for all. Your comments are the most wonderful gift also. 🙂

  27. TC says:

    If I had a yule log, I’d burn it right under my behind right now! It’s cold up here on the night of the winter solstice – ten degrees as I type this.

    Your yule log is quite beautiful.

    Hi TC, it is in the teens here, and windy as all get out! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  28. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    OOOoooo what a cool yule log.

    Hi Lisa, thanks, I always appreciate a good oooh! 🙂

  29. eliz says:

    That’s a lovely arrangement. I had never seen nandina berries before.

    Hi Elizabeth, thanks, so nice to see you. The old fashioned nandinas do have gorgeous berries, newer ones like Firepower are sterile and much shorter too. I need to rethink my prejudice against them really. My neighborhood has them by the hundreds, all with berries planted in the 1950’s when this was a very popular shrub in the south, before the invasive issue was even thought about.

  30. LindaLunda says:

    So beautiful! I do love that arrangement!
    I hope you will have a wonderfull and peacefull Christmas!

    Hi Linda, thanks so much. I hope the same good wishes for you and yours. Stay warm!

  31. cheryl says:

    Beautiful Yule log Frances ! So fitting for the day, and wooooo hooooo, days will get longer now 🙂

    Hi Cheryl, thanks so much. Don’t you feel the days getting longer already? NOT! 🙂

  32. Rose says:

    Beautiful, Frances! The woodpeckers have left you a Christmas gift, and you made the most of it. Have a merry Christmas!

    Hi Rose, thanks. The woodpeckers are plentiful here, lots of old wood and mature trees to forage in our older neighborhood. When I saw that hole, it just had to hold a candle! You too have a wonderful Christmas!

  33. Barbara says:

    Frances – so much less fattening than those yule logs that appear on our Chrismas tables. I will never be able to look at another fallen log again without thinking it needs to be dressed for the season. Have a very Merry Christmas.

    Hi Barbara, thanks, and the same to you. I would love to make one of those fattening yule logs also, they are so pretty and festive. Maybe someday.

  34. Sweet Bay says:

    A beautiful Yule log. The nandina berries look fantastic on it, as does the ivy.

    Hi Sweet Bay, thanks so much. The nandina berries bear rethinking, for they are the perfect Christmas berry. That coloration is my favorite ivy and it is quite hardy here too. It gets some reddish edges with the cold making it even prettier.

  35. What a beautiful idea for using that windfall, Frances! Those of us who like to sing all the verses probably have ‘see the blazing Yule before us…strike the harp and join the chorus’ playing on their mental jukebox right now.
    The nandinas don’t seem to have any berries left this dry year, but you’re inspiring me to cut some Burford holly.

    Happy Solstice from

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Hi Annie, thanks for planting the seeds of that wonderful carol in my brain with you singing it of course! If you have some ivy, and have the makings for even more songs with the holly and the ivy. 🙂


  36. Jan says:

    Your yule log is so lovely. It is a perfect outdoor decoration for this time of year. Frances, I hope you and yours have a very merry Christmas.

    Always Growing

    Hi Jan, thanks so much. May you and those you love have a wonderful Christmas also.

  37. kanak says:

    Hi Frances, I’ve seen yule logs only in pictures but yours is the prettiest ever! Simply, simply love the way you’ve teamed up the foliage and berries from your garden. Placing the candle on a hole made by a woodpecker too! To come and see such talent and creativity and stunning images is really inspirational.

    Hi kanak, thanks so much, how sweet of you to say that. I am so glad that you enjoyed the gift from our birds, they were quite generous to offer their favorite pecking log to decorate the back deck! 🙂

  38. Wow, that’s really making lemonade out of lemons! That is such a thing of beauty.

    Hi MMD, thanks, you are so funny, I guess the fallen log might be considered a lemon, but I usually use them to add to the compost or brush pile. By the time they fall, the wood fibers have rotted to the point of being sponges. So glad you like it, lemons or not. 🙂


  39. Marnie says:

    So pretty and sentimental tool. I love the idea of a beautiful, woodpecker yule log.

    Hi Marnie, thanks. Those woodpeckers chose just the right sized log for the table too, they are so smart and design savvy! 🙂

  40. Kathleen says:

    Now there’s a yule log with sentiment behind it. I would never have thought to turn the wind fall into a gorgeous holiday decoration like you did Frances. Your mind just never stops, I can tell. I haven’t been around lately so I’m just catching up with you/your blog. I hope you (and your family) have a very merry Holiday. and just think, it won’t be long till we will be back in the garden again… 🙂

    Hi Kathleen, welcome back and thanks for stopping by. We missed you! I am a little on the hyper side, way slower in my old age than when I was younger, thank goodness! 🙂 Happy holidays to you and yours as well. Back in the garden? I can’t wait!

  41. Brenda Kula says:

    I would fully expect such a cute and innovative idea like this from you, Frances! I don’t think I’d have thought of it in a million years. But it is perfect for the holidays so nature too can enjoy!

    Hi Brenda, thanks so much. High expectation make me nervous though! LOL It is cheering to look out the sliders in the addition where I sit in the lazyboy blogging away and see that decor on the deck table. Maybe the birds will come and nibble on the nandina berries. Many congrats on the new grandbaby girl, she is beyond precious!

  42. Stuart says:

    Awesome optimistic approach Frances – turning a bad situation into a good one. It looks wonderful. I notice you have the same looking outdoor setting as we had – except ours had black chairs instead of blue. Very cool.

    Have an awesome Christmas and Happy New Year.

    Hi Stuart, thanks for stopping by. And what good taste you have in outdoor furniture. We bought that set in Texas and it has been outside and never covered for more than ten years now. That woven webbing on the chairs has not even faded! Have a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones. 🙂

  43. lisa says:

    That turned out beautiful! Have a great Holiday season! *~<]:-)

    Hi Lisa, thanks. I hope your Christmas was the best too.

  44. Tessa says:

    I love your yule log- what a great idea! It’s so nice to see that even though some of those branches died back a little, some good came of it for the birds. You are very creative- and again I am inspired!

    PS- Thanks for stopping by my blog too!

    Hi Tessa, thanks. It was my pleasure to view your lovely blog too. 🙂 There is little that happens in the garden naturally that doesn’t have a silver lining.

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