Today, December 22nd, is Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere. The shortest day and longest night of the year. From here on out, the days get longer until Summer Solstice in June. What a glorious thing to look forward to.
In celebration of the solstices and equinoxes, I try to spend time out in nature, and today was no exception. I spent the morning in my garden at Ocean View Farms. Since the last few days included heavy rain and wind, I was wondering what I’d find when I got there. To my surprise, everything was still in tact, but alas, the gophers have been at it again.
I watched one poke its head out between the brussel sprouts and kohl rabi where I had just smoothed the ground. I grabbed the hose and flooded the tunnel. Now the tunnel is about 8 inches in diameter, and who knows if I got that blasted gopher. Probably not, as I’ve read on numerous occasions that flooding a tunnel is very ineffective in killing gophers. Apparently they have a shelf that they climb up onto in order to get above the flood. Smart little bastards. Anyway, I’ve alerted the gopher busters at the garden and a new trap will be set soon. But I digress…
Winter Solstice was celebrated in ancient times by ancient civilizations before the introduction of Christianity. Along with harvest festivals in fall, and fertility rituals in spring, the celebrations around winter solstice mark midwinter (or the middle of winter, technically and astronomically speaking). For many cultures, it was a time when people didn’t know whether they would survive the winter due to starvation and cold, so feasts of plenty were had as cattle were slaughtered and wine was fermented in time for winter storage.
Fast forward to today, in warm climates, the garden is practically on autopilot. I’ve got more salad greens that I can eat, and I harvested the first peas of the season this morning. They’re not quite ready, but still, I couldn’t resist. The cabbages are forming little heads. As I sit here at my computer, I am watching the oranges turn color out my window at home. There is also a renegade pumpkin that is about 4 inches in diameter that hasn’t been killed off by a frost yet. The lemon trees are both fruiting and flowering at the same time. Winter is by no means a dormant time in Southern California.
For the colder climates, planning time is well under way for next spring. Seed starting in close at hand and fantasy gardens are being drawn out on paper. The promise of new life is on its way. For the time being, however, we celebrate winter through whatever holiday your culture celebrates. For an incredible listing of solstice observances throughout history, check out: