>Winter Week 8: Winter Solstice

• “Festival” Winter Squash

• Pie Pumpkin
• “Norkotah Russet” Potatoes
• Carrots
• Garlic
• Radicchio
• Lettuces
• Turnips


We wish all of you a wonderful holiday season!

The New Year is upon us at last. I’m not talking about January 1, the modern new year. I mean the original new year—the new year of ancient times and farmers. The Winter Solstice. This day of the solar year with the longest night, and the shortest daylength has historically been very significant with all cultures in the northern hemisphere, especially farming cultures. All living things (aside from modern man with artificial light) base their life processes on the amount of natural light in each given day. For example: Chickens have a 21-hour egg-laying cycle. They create a new egg every 21 hours, and as long as the egg is completed during daylight hours, the hen will expel the egg. If the egg is formed in hours of darkness, she keeps it safe inside her until daylight returns. (During the summer when our days are about 19 hours long, a hen will lay an egg nearly every day, but in the winter when our days are only 8 hours long, that same hen will lay an egg only every three or four days. Commercial hens are kept with lights on 24 hours a day, to maximize production.Daylength also triggers the heat cycles of mammals, especially grazers like goats & cows. Their biological clocks time things just right, so that babies are born when mom’s food is abundant.

As far as plants are concerned, temperature is less of an issue than daylength. Plants are only able to perform photosynthesis with light. Since photosynthesis is what gives plants energy for growth, most plants stop growing when the daylength gets down to about 10 or so hours. Active plant growth doesn’t start up again until the lengthening days of spring arrive. Then, the plants wake from their winter dormancy and sprout new leaves to soak up all that sunlight and the chickens start pumping out eggs like crazy. In farming terms, the solstice is a much more meaningful day than January 1, Julius Caesar’s new year. But he wasn’t a farmer, he was a politician.

The day after the solstice, we can look forward to more eggs, more greens, and it means that soon we won’t have to do our chores in the dark. It’s time to order seeds for next year, and in a few weeks it will be time to start transplants. Spring is just around the corner!

If you haven’t seen them yet, be sure and drive by the Carpinito fields on West Valley Highway. There are Trumpeter Swans. Quite a few big, white goose-looking birds and a few greyish juveniles. There have also been some in his field at 277th St. and Central Ave. It pains me to think of all the chemicals they’re ingesting when they clean up the old corn and pumpkin patches, but hopefully it’s not doing them too much harm as they won’t be here very long before they move on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s