Sunday, 2 January 2011

The return of the sun

By Aurora, Island Dreaming

Whilst all seasons have their charms and downsides, I think that most people have times of year that they prefer. My perennially pale complexion marks summer as my natural enemy and my feeble circulatory system sees winter as its foe, hence I thrive in spring and autumn. Winter here this year  has been dreary - one day of pristine, crunchy snow followed by weeks of slush, freezing temperatures, greyness and treacherous ice. The rest of the country descended into snowy chaos as we turned into Sweden for a few weeks, though without any of that nation's preparedness. This is one winter I will be particularly glad to see the end of.


I feel the transition from winter is very much a 'countryside' season that can fall flat in the city, with its evergreen shrub beds, annual planting schemes and general lack of wildlife. Nevertheless, now the solstice is past; the first signs of new growth will begin to appear, just as the harshest part of winter descends upon us.The days lengthen by a few minutes everyday, the sun rises a little higher in the sky, warmer days will eventually come. Whilst now is still a time to be hunkering down against the elements in temperate northern climates, it is also a good time to begin planning for the approaching season (if for no other reason than all this dark and cold is getting a little old for my liking).

For gardeners the tasks for the coming months are obvious - tidying, planning, seed selecting and starting. But I am also starting to look at how our menu will change, what produce will be coming into season and what wines and preserves I can make early on in the year. Open-farm 'lambing' days begin at the end of this month and continue through to spring, a great opportunity to get acquainted with local food producers. As we now have an allotment, we might visit a 'Potato day' to pick up some unusual tubers to plant. Most importantly, I would like to bring the season alive for our toddler son  - buds unfurling and baby birds chirping, the wonder of planting a seed and watching it grow - and need to plan as many outings and activities as possible to that effect, both in and out of the city.

The temptation, in the depths of winter, is to try and preempt Spring. Last New Year, in my eagerness to see something grow, I sowed tomatoes and aubergines on my shady windowsill - far too early, far too prolifically. By the time the initially weedy growth matured and got too big for the windowsill, we were still in the midst of frosts and biting winter winds. This year, despite my itching to get on and do something, anything, that affirms that greenery and abundance will once again be returning to my patio, I have not yet succumbed.  Instead I am quietly observing what is going on around me, waiting for the first signs of spring and tidying up a few stray ends in the garden, ready to pounce when the right day comes.

Wherever you are, in the midst of whatever season, I wish you a very happy and prosperous 2011.