As we head into the darkest months it’s time to down tools and take stock of what worked and what didn’t
The first Sunday of the last month of the year. The darkest days. The winter solstice is at 15.59, 21 December, when the North Pole is tilted furthest from the sun, hanging over the Tropic of Capricorn. Btw, my constant source: Lia Leendertz’s essential Almanac, because I find it comforting to know when the sun and moon rise and set and what time’s high tide near my childhood home. It’s a perfect Christmas present. Even better when bought from your local bookshop.
Anyway, time to (mostly) down tools. Hang a few bird feeders if you haven’t already. They’ll thank you for it and it’s a joy to see. A source of fresh water would be good, too, if possible.
It’s the month for some armchair gardening. To perhaps look back over the year. Think about what worked and what didn’t do so well. What you might try differently in 2022. Time to think about seed.
I will scour favoured catalogues and seed sites. Attempt to be more ruthless with some of the more ancient out-of-date packets I keep almost as totems. I tell myself I will find a home for them on the plot sometime.
I’ll also try to make more sense of the various dishes of drying seed dotted throughout the house. The envelopes, the paper bags of many sizes stashed on shelves and in cupboards. Currently needing sorting and cleaning: two paper sacks of Hopi Red amaranth heads, another of deep crimson orache.
There are bulging bags of poppy, calendula and nasturtium seed I’ll share with Kala for her garden, even though she has been collecting her own through the year. Some, we’ll take with us to the summerhouse as we reclaim more borders there.
Note that none of this includes the peas and beans, chard and beet seed we saved. Or the cake tin stuffed with packets of salad and other leafy crops. It’s hopeless. An addiction. Perhaps Howard will stage an intervention.
Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com