Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Beauty, Light and Joy - Happy Winter Solstice

Winter is almost officially here and we will soon start to add daylight back into our days. This is an event we look forward to every year, in the same way we eagerly anticipate hearing the first American woodcock after returning from warmer lands and singing wood frogs recently thawed and fully awake and present in the warming rains. These events mark our calendar, our hearts, and our assurance of sanity and a return to abundant sunshine, insects, singing birds and of course - greening, growing plants.

Winter is part of our lives and we work ever so hard to enjoy each day. Notice, I said work. Sometimes it's effortless, but a lot of times in this season, it is work for us.

Adventures with towering trees,

forests, rocks, and new snow,

and very loved friends,

make our hearts happy and make this work of winter easier. (Thanks N for the photo of us below.) Steve and his two t-shirt method for staying warm clearly works for him, but me? I'll take the puffy coat, snow pants, long johns, winter hat and snow boots.

Steve's nicknamed me Photon, though it could also be his nickname, because in this season of dark we savor each brilliant moment of sunlight. The warm colors of our house capture this light and brighten our spirits and make us ever grateful for the bold palette inspired by nature.

Our leaning, but cheerful and almost sunbathing little Norfolk Island Pine holds Christmas ornaments I made with my family as a kid. We keep nurturing this little tree and another upstairs who we hope will someday recover from the root prune the nursery gave them because we just can't give up. I mean, life is LIFE - the brilliant, beautiful, sacred, wonder of it all.

Thunderstorms in December ushered in sunshine and a magnificent double rainbow. Standing on the porch in my barefoot, I found tears of joy trickling down my face. What beauty is in this world!

This most certainly includes a loaf of fresh baked bread...

and the continuation of our persimmon adventures. This is their shining moment in the fruit world and so we celebrate them joyfully. Below are Asian hachiya persimmons from Saraga, an international grocery store, in Columbus. They are ripe when they feel like water balloons and so delicious. I bonded with a non-English speaker over these persimmons because he had a bag of 10 or more and he held it up laughing and nodding yes to me and I did the same in reciprocity. Beauty in people bonded over persimmons makes me smile even as I type.

Another dear friend tipped us off to fruiting American persimmons west of Columbus at the Union Co. fairgrounds so we traveled to see them and were thrilled to see the abundance these branches held, even at the beginning of December.

The fruits ornamented several trees and were all over the ground as well. They tasted delicious and divinely sweet so we gathered a big container and savored every last one raw or in our morning millet bowl. We have quite an abundance of seeds so we plan to grow more again next year. Fruits that ripen in late fall and winter in the Midwest and stay ripe and delicious on the trees in freezing weather, must, must, must be shared.

We planted a lot of the bareroot trees we grew in our experimental airprune bed, right here on this mighty 3.5 acres at the beginning of December. We've planted thousands of herbaceous plants here and hundreds and hundreds of woodies. Don't be scared, just plant, plant, plant. Some plants won't make it and then you will be happy you planted more than you ever thought you should, because you want the plants to have friends: for their own benefit and connectivity for the benefit of all those lives they host and support. The left side of the bin below holds pawpaws and the right side, the persimmons. Note the black roots of persimmon...that is due to their membership in the ebony family.

We moved our high tunnel out of the portion of the garden we are rewilding to the plant nursery for a future shade house.

This next growing season, we are taking a big break from many plants as we adventure into the world more in 2020, but everything is set for when we are ready to return. Thanks to Steve's handyman skills at moving and repair, this structure is sound and will last.

The loss of leaves in the fall and winter offers sight of leaf-hidden life, which we love to watch for as we tour around the trails here. We were thrilled to find this polyphemus moth cocoon on the rough-leaf dogwood, one of their host plants. We've not yet documented this silkmoth here and were more than pleased to know, they are here and the right plants are growing to host their hungry caterpillars that metamorphose into an almost 6" wide moth!

The clear emergence hole and rather intact nature of the cocoon indicates to me this moth most likely emerged this past summer. Where oh where did he or she go? You know we will be monitoring very closely this coming year.

The evergreen bagworms the eastern red cedars host sometimes, also lived on the silky dogwood this year. We were captivated by the attachment of dogwood fruits to the cocoon.

This gem of a silkmoth did not grow here on this 3.5 acres, but rather at Mohican State Park. Any guesses?

If you said cecropia, you are right! This cocoon is heavy and that tells me she or he is overwintering soundly and safely. What a gift to live in a world where silkmoths live. As a child, I found my first ever cecropia in my Dad's office at the factory where he worked. The lights of the factory no doubt brought this moth indoors where he or she died, but the huge size and magnificent coloring blew my mind. I still remember that office and that moth because my life grew so much bigger in that moment.

And so friends, let's end on more beauty...prairie rose (Rosa setigera) with hot pink petioles in December:

Camphorweed (Pluchea odorata) seed heads that are still pungently fragrant...

and the Clear Fork gorge...our local tether to wildness other than the rewilding 3.5 acres of Morrow County, OH we call home.

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