Winter on the Homestead
December 3, 2020
We are in December, my favorite month! Most would think the warmer months would top my list. Early mornings in the garden, hours on the river or days hiking are, of course, completely wonderful and I would never trade them. However, December has always been the most special to me. Yes, I love the holidays, but it is much more than that. The first few weeks that change autumn to winter are always reassuring. Once Thanksgiving is over and December 1st arrives the countdown to winter begins. The air changes from crisp to cold. Precipitation moves from rain to snow and the clock brings darkness early in the day. Many people dislike the 4:30 hour ringing in the evening skies but I love it. There is something comforting about retreating inside, turning on all the Christmas lights (of which we have many!) and lighting the fire. As we approach the shortest day of the year (December 21st) it is a time to take stock of everything we have accomplished and all that is yet to be done. Winter months are a time of introspection and planning, both of which are necessary on a homestead. What did we do well? What did we do poorly? What is yet to be done? Now is the time to answer those questions.
December frees us from much outdoor work. Yes, the compost is still kept and the chickens need daily tending but overall, the outside chores diminish greatly. So what do we do with that extra time? Well, The Green Cart Kitchen is still busy through the holidays as catering is so important this season. But on the homestead things run at a slower pace. So, on our down time, we plan. Planning is the key to a better year, fuller harvest and more return on the sweat we pour into the property.
I, especially, retreat to my books. Read, read, read is my motto. With a degree in English literature it is not shocking that my “go to” method of relaxation and self-improvement is books. Now is the time I begin dreaming. Which new vegetables and herbs to raise and which new gardening methods will improve production are at the forefront. Each month that we spend on this land teaches us what will work; what plants will easily grow here and what will struggle. What can we add to increase the beauty and what will provide more food. Also, what does the local wildlife destroy and in what are they less interested. We take those learned lessons seriously and apply them to the upcoming year. We make our lists and diagrams and move forward. I enjoy seed catalogs immensely and pouring over all the plants I have yet to grow is addictive. Curled up in front of a roaring fire with a notebook and my garden books is the perfect evening...and if it's snowing...well then, all the more happy am I!
December is also a time to cook. Not just for our business but for fun. Having an afternoon free to try new recipes and to work with new ingredients is a gift I don't squander. I collect recipes, magazines and books all year and it isn't until life slows down that I can really explore the value of them. Now is the time to experiment, taste and create. Whole days off are spent in the kitchen, working and reworking dishes for our business and our home. Nothing has taught me more about the culinary arts than the simple act of hands on learning. Talent may be God given but I believe knowledge and skill are acquired in the doing. So that is where I put my time...in the doing!
I hope this month offers a least a few days for everyone to shut off their phones and outside noise and explore their own interests, whether that be in a kitchen, a library or a walk in the woods. Take the time for crafts and decorating and creating. Enjoy the stillness of the early evenings and the beautiful holiday lights. December is the month to find yourself again. Don't let the season pass you by without taking time to mark it in your own way.