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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Winter Solstice

Darn, I missed it!  Well, I did notice it a couple of times during the day, but only when I was busy doing something else.  I suppose that doesn't matter.  It's not like I need to do anything that day, I just like it.  But I didn't get around to posting...

It means the days will be getting longer.  And even though it means it will be getting colder for 3 months, it means that gardening season starts again in a couple weeks.  Not the planting, but the seed ordering.  And even then, it will only be 4 weeks before I can plant the first seeds in flats under lights in the basement!  After that, it's not too long to transplanting the sprouts to individual cells and then outside.

I plan to plant a lot more flowers this year.  I spent 10 years focussing on perennials for the convenience of not replanting every year, but quite frankly, most of them aren't worth having.  So many perennials bloom for a week or two and then they're done for the year.  Some bloom most of the season (coneflowers, black-eyed susans, reblooming daylilies) and I'm keeping those.  Some make quite an impact with just a few plants (oriental lilies, stokes aster).  Some are for the foliage anyway (hostas).

So I've been growing more annuals the past few years.  The season-long blooming of 30 square feet of bright zinnias is worth the hour it takes to plant them outside.
Two such patches of different color zinnias,  one of marigolds, and one of vivid salvia will go a long way and cost less than one hosta.

But back to Winter Solstice.  I like the more natural holidays, the ones that occur for uncomplicated real reasons.  New Years Day,  Summer Solstice, Thankgiving, Winter Solstice...  Near Year's Day is as artificial as can be (because calendars are completely artificial), but I like it because that's the first day of the current calendar, and you might as well celebrate a new year starting.  Summer Solstice is OK as a natural event, but somehow the longest day of the year doesn't have the same meaning as the shortest day.  At Summer Solstice, I'm not noticing the change in day-length all that much.

Thanksgiving is close to the best holiday.  Coming from a long line of farmers and having a strong sense of agriculture through history, I appreciate the importance and relief of a good Fall harvest.  Especially those crops that don't keep well (it's eat it or lose it)!  Even with year-round fresh food in these modern times, a Winter grocery store tomato is NOT the same as an August tomato from the back yard.

But I personal like Winter Solstice for the historical agricultural reasons above.  Maybe (as an ancestor) the Fall Harvest was not what you hoped it would be, but the Winter Solstice is the promise and hope of a better year ahead.  Promise and hope can keep you going in April when you are down to your last moldy or shriveled potatoes, carrots, and apples.  And lucky to have those.
(site said the image was "free")

I suppose I should mention Ground Hog Day.  It's not an accident that it is halfway between the 1st day of Winter and the 1st day of Spring.  In olden days, it meant "we've made it halfway, we can get through the other half".   And there is even a reason for that celebration.  From what I've read (disclaimer clause), Winter weather warms up earlier in Europe, sometimes starting in early February.  For pre-calendar farmers there, the emergence of hibernating burrowing mammals (hedgehogs, marmots) was a good sign that it was the time to plant the earliest Spring crops.  However, if shadows were seen (meaning clear bright days, meaning still-cold weather) it was best to wait a couple of weeks.  When those Europeans arrived in NE North America (where the climate stayed colder longer being on the eastern side of a continent), they had to adjust the timing.  And they had to adjust the animal.

So instead of small hedgehogs who HAD to emerge earlier because they had smaller fat reserves (and who don't exist in NA), they went by the larger groundhogs (2 foot tall marmots like land-based beavers without a tail, for my European friends) who could afford to check outside conditions and retreat for more hibernation if required.

So, I'll add Groundhog Day to my list of "natural" holidays even though I don't think it was a very good guide for planting (sunny days occur rather randomly in NA Winters).  A good measure of Groundhog Day sense in NA is that nobody sends Groundhog Day cards to friends.  LOL!

And lastly?  I like these holidays because there isn't much theology involved in them.  Natural and calendar events just "are" and you don't have to worry about them.  I DO like that...  :)


Katnip Lounge said...

The only annuals we grow are the "food" ones, tomatoes, and so forth. It's just too blazing hot here in the summertime for plants with tender flowers and plush leaves. I envy you your hostas!

I enjoy astronomical holidays the most--but if it involves food, I'll celebrate, LOL.

Megan said...

Today I purchased another raised vegetable garden with hood/cover to sit along side the one I already have. (The cover is essential at our place because we have loads of native wildlife that eat any young plant shoots.) I'm enjoying success (so far) this year with tomato and capsicum plants, so I'm hoping to really get into the swing of things and plant lettuces and carrots in my new Vegepod. ( Wish me luck! I have thought about growing flowering plants and shrubs in it but haven't made a start on anything like that.

Sydney, Australia

Mark's Mews (Ayla, Iza, and Marley) said...

I'm planning a 20'x 24' 8" high pvc pipe grid to enclose my garden. But every attempt is worth something. What you get is precious.

Mark's Mews (Ayla, Iza, and Marley) said...

Wrote that wrong. 20' x 24' by 8' high enclosure... I want some room to grow stuff.

Punapippuri said...

I wish I had your green fingers! And when I moved away from Britain to a totally different climate, all my horticultural knowledge (what little I had) was useless. The season here is so short -I can barely grow catnip.

I love the natural holidays too. Here the seasons are massively important and I was really surprised by the power of the winter solstice. It really feels like the planet reaches a boundary and can then pull steadily back, gaining more and more light. Energy starts to return, and there is new hope - even if the snow will be here until May!

Happy solstice (a bit late, I know)