Once again we have arrived at the darkest night of the year, the earliest sunset at 3.47 p.m. in 2023, the least amount of light: the Winter Solstice. By tomorrow evening we will enjoy an extra minute of daylight and the earth will have begun, once again, its journey back towards the sun.
The term “solstice” comes from the Latin words sol (Sun) and sistere (to stand still) because, during the solstice, the angle between the Sun’s rays and the plane of the Earth’s equator appears to stand still. Upon the winter solstice, the Sun appears at its lowest in the sky, and its noontime elevation seems to stay the same for several days before and after this day.
Although we refer to this time as Midwinter, it isn’t really. Winter is just beginning. So as the sun sets tonight and as we reach this significant moment in the earth’s annual cycle, what will we all be celebrating?
For us the exciting possibilities of fresh beginnings, change and growth are all around us. Nowhere is this felt more keenly than in the vineyard. The importance of rest, resetting and re-evaluating is key to sustainable growth, for our business, our kitchen garden, lives and our vineyard.
There is great wisdom in the natural world; let’s take to our vines for inspiration…
In winter, they are dormant and channel their resources beneath the surface. They prepare for the year ahead, through nourishing their roots and storing energy within. By strengthening internally, they reinforce their chances of success for the year ahead. This sets the tone for new growth in Spring.
In the vineyard it is when the vines are at rest that we commence pruning – cutting them back, assessing their health and directing their growth for the coming season.
The natural resources of a vine is essentially a zero-sum game – there is a finite amount of energy to go around and we want that to be directed in the right places.
This is where Heron Farm’s dedication to excellence comes in to play. We focus on achieving the optimum equilibrium between all the characteristics needed for a healthy, flourishing vineyard because the quality of our grapes at harvest is of far greater importance than the quantity that are produced.
There is a great beauty to be found in the stark landscape and dramatic skies that surround Heron Farm in January. It is a very different scene to the lush, leafy rows of burgeoning vines and ripening grapes in the summer sun. But is one that encapsulates an authentic and poetic glimpse of the seasonality and endless perseverance of the natural world that Heron Farm, in vineyard kitchen garden and café, works in harmony with.
And what about us? How do we reset for the year? Tonight, tomorrow, over the next few days, we’d like to invite us all to step back into a world of dare we say enchantment; to set aside the race around the shops for a while and enter into a moment of engagement, once more, with the unfolding universe and celebrate it. And the way to do this, we think, is in the smallest, slightest ways; in moments of still contemplation and in minutes of quiet intimacy with the world around us. Step outside. Look up. Look deep into the hedgerow or wayside.
On a clear midnight you might spend a while watching the magnificent constellation of Orion stride east to west across the night sky the hilt of his sword pointing to his direction of travel: remind yourself that by midsummer he will no longer be visible, for Orion is a seasonal visitor.
As a late December dawn breaks we might hear a robin on the farm defending its winter territory in hope of the spring to come. Robin is one of the only birds to be singing at this time of year so we relish the solo, by May we remember it will be just one voice in the magnificent choir across the vineyard.
As we reflect on Winter solstice in the vineyard, we take note that whatever we witness is part of the seasonal transformation of our farm, our planet and that simply by noticing it we are bringing ourselves back into coordination with the wonder, magnificence and meaning of our surroundings. We often have to pinch ourselves here at Heron Farm and remember how blessed we are to work in such a beautiful spot where our kitchens, café and all that we do ‘steps-in’ and stays familiar with the cyclical rhythms of our immediate environment, and that by embracing this we are stepping back into the grand patterns of the universe itself.
As we move forward to Spring (and the reopening of the vineyard for tours) note of the first snowdrop, the first time you see a bumblebee. If we keep our eyes open we will detect that the sun is rising slightly further east each morning as it begins its six month journey back to its northernmost point. If we watch closely, we’ll notice the days slowly lengthen as the seasons adjust. Before we know it Winter Solstice in the vineyard will be long forgotten, until next year!
If it feels hard to celebrate this year, surely the simplicity and beauty that sit in all the Winter Solstice in the vineyard, brings is something to cherish? Something worth gathering with loved ones to tell stories about? Something worth feasting, singing and exchanging gifts for?
Whatever, and however, you choose to celebrate we wish you a Happy Solstice and a Happy Christmas from Heron Farm!