We have passed the winter solstice and the daylight hours are very slowly extending. The winter solstice marks the shortest day and in many cultures and across many different histories it has been seen as a day of significance. It is often referred to as mid winter, however this is only the case in countries and cultures that define the seasons astronomically. This is when the seasons are delineated by specific points in the Earth's trip around the sun.
In Australia where we use a meteorological definition the winter solstice or shortest day does not mark mid winter. In Australia June 1st is the beginning of winter therefore the shortest day is not considered to be mid winter. This is particularly so if you live in the cold climate area of the Southern Tableands, where we are located, as we still have the coldest part of winter to come. So while the day light hours start to increase the temperature continues to get colder.
Interestingly, even though we still have some cold weather to come, you will probably start to see an increase in egg production. Hens are one of the many creatures who have a physiological response to the length of day and night. Egg production drops significantly in late autumn and usually begins to slowly increase after the shortest day. This is more evident as a chicken matures. Other birds respond too - especially migratory birds who need to travel vast distances to breed or feed en mass. Many of your farm animals are not as responsive, apart from a thickening of their autumn coats you wont see much change.
So, the daylight hours may be gently increasing we still have many frosty mornings to go with frozen water troughs and very active chickens and water fowl. During this coldest part of winter the gardening day cannot begin until the frost has abated and the garden warms up. I like the slow start to the days this brings, sitting by the fire drinking tea while waiting for water to become liquid again in the animal's water bowls.
Each season has its own rhythm and characteristics. It is easy to see why so many cultures attached ritual and celebration to mark these changes.
Keep warm and enjoy the slow lane in the garden - we have planted lots of vegetables over the last few weeks - now we get to watch them very, very slowly grow.
Bronwyn Richards has cared for animals and has been growing vegetables successfully all her adult life. She is principle gardener for Wynlen House Farm