Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Beginning of Winter for Some, But Beginning of More Light for Alaskans

While today is the official first day of winter, for Alaskans it's the end of shortening days and the beginning of more light.  At first it's slow - seconds a day.  But before long we'll be gaining 5 minutes of light a day.   So in a way it's our spring, our turning point. I do have one blooming plant in the house.  This little begonia never quits. 

But even with the begonia, the arrival of a Park Seed catalog the other day was like being at the grocery store after fasting all day.  I want everything.  But I went downstairs and pulled out the seed packs from last year that are still unopened.  I need restraint at the time of the solstice.

The earth is changing its tilt today.  Bad Astronomy puts it this way:
The Earth is tilted about 23 degrees, so that sometimes the North pole is tipped toward the Sun, and other times the South pole is pointed more toward the Sun. From here on the Earth, this means the Sun moves north and south about 46 degrees over the course of the year. In the summer, the Sun is very high in the sky, but in the winter it never gets as high; the difference is that very same 46 degrees (about 1/4 of the way around the visible part of the sky!).
[I'd note that Bad Astronomy seems to be northern centric in the second part since the opposite is true in the Southern Hemisphere.]

I've written about the solstice and Jean Meeus before.  He's the man who determined the way to figure the exact time this change happens.  When I checked a few days ago, it said December 22 this year.  I should have looked more carefully.  It's December 22 at 12:30am - East Coast Time.  So that means it's December 21 for the rest of the US -  specifically 8:30pm Alaska time. 

Enjoy the end of the darkening and know that from now until mid June, each day will be brighter.  Not as dramatically as this far north, but brighter nevertheless. 


  1. Are you starting the seeds in the packs? I have a lot of left over seed form last year and am wondering whether this works.

    An indolent Southcentral gardener

  2. My experience is that last year's seeds are fine. A lower percent might germinate, but I'm going to use them for sure.


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