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  • Jackie Skrypnek

Dig in to December

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

Earth is leaning away from our star as though playing a bit coy, backing off as though it just needs a little space before it can draw back in again. This loss of intimacy with the sun leaves us chilled and lacking light, feeling a tad solitary; in the northern hemisphere, it's winter. Of course, just as our days are shortest, Christmas comes to offer a celebratory reprieve. Regardless of whether the holidays induce true jolliness and wonder or something closer to frazzlement (not a word, I know), December is a good time to begin to embrace winter. Rather than a futile yearning for our planet's tilt back to summer, we can give ourselves over to its opposite and inhabit this season for what it is.

There's a long list of reasons to love winter from the landscapes of stark beauty and the crispness of the air to the chance to don woolly garments. Here, I suggest a few practices that might help us sort of nuzzle up and get comfy with December, enhance our enjoyment of this month (and the chilly ones that follow).

OBSERVE THE MOON: More hours of darkness means more opportunity to view the moon and notice it's cycle. The patterns of the moon's path across our sky are more complex and less understood than the sun's, but at the very least we can tune in to how its rising time changes over the course of a month and to its progression from new to full and back again. December actually offers us a fascinating glimpse into nature's symmetry: the full moon closest to the winter solstice mirrors the position of the sun on summer solstice. This can be a handy little tool if you have plans for your property next summer - the shadows cast by this winter full moon will illustrate which areas of your yard will be in sun and which in shade come June.

Warm winter salad made with squash stored from our garden and the last of the kale in our cold frame.

SAY GOODBYE TO SALAD: Okay, more specifically, say goodbye to the cool, light tossings that kept us refreshed and hydrated in the summer. It's time to turn to greens that will sustain us through the cold, ones that are a little more warming and substantial. Sure, we can still access lettuce at the store, but a look outside tells us those delicate types of leaves are out of place and unfeasible in this weather. Alternative sources of chlorophyll such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, or chard might be found at the store as well, but they may just as realistically have made it this long under a cold frame, in cold storage, or blanched and bagged in the freezer. Even if you are just picking them up at the supermarket, a move toward more wintery versions of salad will do your body good. Kale can stand up to a pairing with warm grains or roasted veggies, chard or collards make a nourishing sauté or soup addition, cabbage is equally tasty braised or in slaw, and brussels sprouts are like candy when caramelized in the oven. For a broccoli soup that is delicious yet ridiculously simple, follow this recipe from Gordon Ramsay. And now's the time to turn to anything green you froze when gardens and markets were in full bloom.

ENGAGE LOCALLY: Just as winter tends to draw us inward - indoors, into contemplation or planning, into our family circle - it's likewise a perfect time to reel in our spending from the global market and focus it closer to home. Many of the people running enterprises in our community depend on our patronage over the Christmas season, but choosing to do business with them is more than an economic transaction. When we engage with our local purveyors we get a better idea of what's being produced or innovated in our community, what our particular place has to offer, and we build connection based on the solidarity of sharing the same home and the same winter. In presenting someone with a gift obtained locally, we are offering them a little piece of ourselves in the sense that it comes from the place we are a part of.

Warm wishes for December from Hereabouts to wherever this finds you!

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