Reflecting on the Winter Solstice

Today marks the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice. As I stood beneath that great oak at 5:00 this morning looking into the clear dark sky, illuminated with the glittering cosmos above, I wondered about the year ahead (all while wrangling two Scottish Terriers). To a farmer, this is the beginning of the new year, when the light begins to increase. Light, water and soil, make the elixir of this creation we all depend upon on. I never cease to marvel and stand in awe of its magnitude.

We have attempted to reflect that same cosmos above from below in our small field of daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs. They, like the stars, planets, and other heavenly bodies are cast across the field in seeming randomness, yet set in their own order. Our own earthbound little ‘Milkyway’, if you will. I am so relieved to have them now all snuggly in the ground for their winter nap.

This year only 12,000 daffodils were planted, when in years past it has been as many as 75,000, which is, by the way, utter madness. That year I recall wishing I’d never see another daffodil bulb again (my back ached for a month) as the last ones finally made it into the ground as late as mid-January. Late for us, nonetheless they performed without hesitation, although late in flowering. This is always the case. Even bulbs of the same cultivar when newly planted will bloom a week or two later than their same counterparts that may have been planted for several years.

The lambs are adorable, three more now have been born as we close the chapter on autumn officially. Every guest to the farm falls in love with them. Their innocence and purity are symbolic of the season. It’s certainly the ewes and their protective nature that captures my attention. Ever watchful and quickly taking a defensive stance and stomping their feet whenever I approach their young.

The dogs, too, (Smudge and Squeak) keep an ever-watchful eye on the lambs as they rest, frolic and nurse. Smudge and Squeak are Anatolian shepherd dogs, from the mountains of Turkey. Not herders, but protectors. Deep in their DNA lies this need to oversee and guard what they see as theirs. We are grateful for their teamwork with ‘Moose’ our donkey.

We cut a load of greenery for the ladies of the flower guild yesterday and got it to the church. It’s an annual tradition to share the bounty of the farm in the way of pine, cedar, magnolia, holly, and mistletoe. Over the years I’ve added lots of good plants for cutting, but particularly during the Holidays.

My view of what ‘works’ for the Holidays has expanded. Now we use more of everything, which makes decorating so much more interesting. The compositions have become more like botanical studies with the use of lichens, osmanthus, camellia, acuba, ruscus, and hellebores, to name a few. Keeping nature close to us in all its rich manifestations as part of celebrating the season is important to me.

Later today the farm will again host our annual family Christmas party. It’s been going on since my great grandparents started the tradition as a young couple before the Great Depression. This year, according to my Great Aunt (the family’s official social secretary) we will have over 100 for lunch, all with lots of fellowship and laughs.

I’ll enjoy some solitude later in the day with a walk around the farm at dusk. The winter sunsets are yet another glory to behold.