Winter Dreams and Ten Neat Things…

The morning sun on the cottonwood outside our house.

I love the sky in winter. These December mornings are so brilliantly pink as we approach eight o’clock and then, for a brief moment just before 4:30 p.m., a rosy glow lights up the western sky.

A rosy sunrise from my kitchen window, with the ceramic wrenhouse that waits for those busy little birds to bring it back to life next spring.

It is only days now until we reach the bottom of the year, not Dec. 31 as you might think, but Dec. 22. This day will be eight hours, five minutes and 21 seconds long, the shortest day of the year. (The winter solstice occurs Dec. 21 at 11:30 p.m. in Winnipeg this year.)

Now the days slowly start getting longer, picking up momentum as time goes on and lengthening faster and faster. By New Year’s Eve, we will already have gained four minutes and 32 seconds.

Somewhere between March 16 and March 17, we will reach the moment when there will be equal number of hours of sunlight and darkness, not counting predawn and twilight, even though the vernal equinox does not occur here in Winnipeg until March 20 at 12:14 a.m. When that happens, you can almost hear the breath and pulse of all the sleeping animals and plants beginning to quicken ever so slightly.

We – the plants and animals and those who garden – won’t care, as our internal clocks will be already have been rousing us from our deep winter torpor. Each day after the shortest day, we feel the thrum of the earth slowly stirring and begin to look forward to spring. I used to get such spring fever as a child.

Still, there are yet many beautiful days of winter to come. We have had only two mornings of hoarfrost, when fog dissolves into a world of crystal and white. We have seen only two brilliantly sunny, but icy, days to showcase twin sundogs.  We have not yet seen the northern lights this year. There is yet but a thin layer of snow, and it is threatened by a warm front and treacherous freezing rain.

I have known it to rain on New Year’s Eve here one year then plunge to -40 C the next.

The real time for savouring winter is January when the temperature plummets to -40 C. (This is where Celsius and Fahrenheit meet on the bottom end of thermometer). The intense cold releases the music of snow, when it is crunched underfoot. That squeak, squawk, creak happens when the temperatures fall below -10 C. Then the display of diamonds, reflections of sun on the simplest of snow crystals that form when the thermometer drops, litter the earth and light up the day.

We have yet to be heartened by the “bonspiel thaw” in early February, when an annual warm spell melts all the carefully cut snow sculptures created for the Festival du Voyageur.  The thaw seems ironic, when this festival is our annual celebration of winter.

Finally, just as we are longing for the winter to pass at last, fickle March blows in and often brings heavy snow dumps and alarming but exciting blizzards in one last battle with the lengthening days and the returning strength of the sun.

And through it all, we rest warm and cozy, before our fireplaces or television screens, flipping through garden magazines and seed catalogues or searching the net waiting impatiently now for it all to begin again.

Ten Neat Things…

Three weeks ago, Shauna, my youngest daughter, and I published our Book of Ten Neat Things. This is a collection of the e-letters about neat things in the garden and the wide wild world around us: it could be Ten Neat Things about spiders, or owls, or petunias or even snow. We look for things that make us go Wow! I didn’t know that! Or that make us laugh or fill us with wonder.

Shauna and I like to say we often think with one brain. She would be writing about something in Toronto and I would be writing about the same topic in Winnipeg. It’s weird, but kind of marvellous at the same time. Shauna has stopped writing now because she is going back to school to learn fashion design, or some such thing, but I carry on because it makes me happy.

We have written more than a hundred of these e-letters over the past three years. People were telling us that they collected them and passed them on to friends, so a book seemed a natural extension.

Now The Book of Ten Neat Things is on our local newsstands and hopefully, when I have more time, we will extend distribution to newsstands in other areas of Canada. You can see a sampling of these e-newsletter HERE. You can even order a copy through our website at www.localgardener.net or by calling us at 1-888-680-2008. Sorry folks, the toll free-number only covers North America.