Ten below zero on the winter solstice in a cozy house with the wood stove cranking and a farm raised chicken roasting in the oven. The tree is up, the presents are wrapped, and I only have a few more tasks to complete before starting to cook for the extended family Christmas Eve dinner. At the moment, life is good!
Even with the low light, our pullets have been laying 3 to 5 eggs a day.
It has been a hectic week. On Saturday, my daughter and I attended the annual Kenny Lake Christmas bazaar to man a table with KLS and PTO fundraiser items and our own Wood Frog Farm table with dried herbs, carrots, and cat toys. We had a great day visiting and making a little extra money too.
My sister-in-law and I drove into Anchorage on frosty roads to spend two days shopping at box stores, malls, and small businesses to find the Christmas presents we wished to have for our loved ones. 6 hours of driving to immerse oneself in retail is NOT my favorite activity and this is the first year I have not had all my ducks in a row with presents before December rolled around. While a delicious sushi dinner and a wonderful home of a friend to stay in soothed the big town blues, we were happy to finish with our lists and make the long slog back home. However driving in the dark looking for caribou and moose is pretty stressful all on its own. We knew they were crossing the Glenn Highway as a road kill caribou had been donated to the Kenny Lake School Nutrition Program just the day before.
Yup! There is a list that families can get on to collect road kill in Alaska. When an animal is killed by a vehicle, the next person on the list is called to come butcher the animal and bring home the meat. It feeds hungry families. A very generous donor drove to it and then skinned and quartered the caribou and delivered it in great shape to the school. On Thursday, we butchered the caribou taking the meat off the bone and turning it into burger to be used for spaghetti, sloppy joes, tacos, etc… It took 3 hours and it was a fun day to spend at the school as the staff and students completed salt dough projects and also prepared for the Christmas Program that night.
Our unfinished root cellar under the house hit 32°F this past week as well so I spent my spare free time bringing all the bins, crates, and totes up the ladder and trying to figure out what to do with all the food. Potatoes and carrots and a cooler full of cabbages went to a neighbors heated, but cool, garage. The rest we are eating or preparing to put in the freezer. Nothing like a little extra processing while getting ready for the holidays!
My goal this year was to write weekly from the Vernal Equinox to the Winter Solstice. Because I publicly stated I was going to do it, I actually followed through (mostly). I wrote 38 entries instead of 40 due to somehow missing two weeks. I am going to take some time off and start again with the new gardening season at the end of February. I am going to be helping build a new room in our house so our son and daughter can each have their own space. Sharing a room has lately become a battleground. So sandpaper and knotty pine will be my focus for a couple of months in the dark and cold months instead of the garden.
Solstice 2019 is at 7:19 PM in Alaska, so an hour and 20 minutes from now (as I write). And then, we will be gaining daylight! Solstice has been a day I have looked forward too all my life. From my childhood of attending Revels in Sanders theater in Cambridge MA, to barn parties with storytellers, to giant Alaskan bonfires and beer, I have always loved celebrating the time of the year when we in the north start turning back toward the sun. Today my daughter and I made beeswax candles. We did not have the right wick for tapers or a great set up. But we made it work and they turned out great. I thought making candles for our upcoming holiday celebration was a good way to celebrate the shortest day.
From Revels, there is a poem I have heard on stage, at our Solstice gatherings and read nearly every year of my life. I love it more than nearly anything other poem.
THE SHORTEST DAY
So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen,
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing, behind us — listen!
All the long echoes sing the same delight
This shortest day
As promise wakens in the sleeping land.
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends, and hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year, and every year.
Welcome Yule! By Susan Cooper
Copyright Susan Cooper 1974
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from our home to yours!
Until next year I hope you stay snug and warm and dreaming of your 2020 garden!!!!