Solar winter solstice is when the sun's power is at its weakest. The shortest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere is December 21st and in the south, of course, six months later in June. It is a time of celebration and reflection in many cultures.
Today as I update this page, it is equinox day in both hemispheres; on March 21, the day and night are of equal length.
What is really a bit of an anachronism is that because of our long dry winter in South Africa, it is the period when our solar devices are most effective and we use the least utility power.
This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 15th May, 2020.
This week we talk about the winter solstice; that is the shortest day and the longest night of the year.
In the southern hemisphere that is in June, whilst our northern cousins are enjoying just the opposite a few days before Christmas.
As is appropriate, the first snows fell on the Drakensberg last Friday and the woodstove heating system has been burning day and night; the beauty of it is that these new designs require very little timber; every last bit is burnt to a fine ash.
Most of that is spread around under the fruit trees, but a cup or two is reserved for each of the worm farms; they too prefer an alkaline medium.
The unexpected winter showers also meant that our reservoir is full; it paid off to invest in the best rainwater harvesting model.
Now we have enough water for our home and winter garden to last us through to the spring rains in August or perhaps September.
The downside is that solar power energy is at its bleakest; it is time to get the ladder out and clean both the vacuum tubes that heat our water and the photovoltaic panels that produce electricity. It takes about an hour.
Take care when going up and down
ladders onto the roof; many have come a cropper. I lash it to a beam to prevent it from jack-knifing.
I have just checked on the winter solstice day in 2018; 89kWh in 65 days, or about 40 per month. That is almost nothing; three dollars, or R35, plus the grid connection fee, of course.
Since writing this we have made three major changes in 2019. We have added another 5kW of PV panels, two lithium batteries and changed over to prepaid electricity. We are now also able to supply our daughter's home. The nett result is that we use for both families in two houses about 50kWh costing R80 ($4) per month, only during inclement weather. There is now no connection fee.
A solar generator definitely pays its way; best of all we have power during the regular load shedding that characterises South Africa.
We get a better return on our investment in solar equipment that our money was getting in the stock market; and as I write in these times of covid-19 we are very pleased to have spent some of our capital in this way.
For us here in the very deep south it means a garden loaded with green vegetables like kale, broccoli and spinach, and freshly-harvested peas; most of them are enjoyed with our salads.
Yes, and of course there are several different types of lettuce.
Organic green foods are the richest source of the two wonder carotenes called lutein and zeaxanthin; they are found in very high concentrations in the retina protecting our eyes against incoming damaging radiation.
Eggs and yellow corn are good too.
For you in the far north it means enjoying the last of the winter squash, but having to depend on imported fruit and vegetables.
Hopefully all year you have heeded my urging to make your own low GI bread; it is one of the constants that we can do year round to improve our health. Use only the complete grains made from the entire seed. Look out for 100 percent wholemeal; it is an excellent source of choline, a vitamin that Western man gets only half of the recommended daily allowance.
A whole grain consists of the endosperm from which white flour is made, bran which is the fibre and the germ which is where the precious oil, vitamins and minerals are found in the main.
To be called a whole grain, these should exist in the same ratio as in the seed, but millers cheat and the spurious rules allow them to call it wholemeal provided no more than 40 percent of the wheat has been removed; that is the bran and germ, They are sent for hog food. The lucky pigs get it all and we have to pay for the supplements at the health store.
The only solution, if you bake your own bread, is an electric flour mill; if you use it daily even the Rolls Royce will pay for itself within two years; our Hawo is nearly twenty-five years and has worked with nary a hiccough.
Solar winter solstice is when some still dance around the apple trees, sipping their hot gluhwein in memory of a forgotten era.
It is also no coincidence that Christmas lies as close to the longest night as the ancients could place it; Jesus was actually born in April or May according to astronomers.
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Christmas for most has become a pagan celebration, dancing around the fir tree, with dozens of presents, and eating and drinking like gluttons.
Rather let us be looking to forging family relationships than spending vast amounts of money on presents that are neither needed nor desired. One mindfully chosen gift is appreciated far more.
Remember too the lonely and miserable; Christmas for so many is a time of deep depression with families divided and lost.
It is a time too for real relaxation and perhaps a short holiday; most of us work far too hard and this is the time for a break from the daily grind, whilst thinking forward to what the new year will hold.
As I write during the coronavirus epidemic in 2020, we are again reminded in part of the real value of an annual lockdown of sorts; we have thrived in this time of enforced rest and relaxation, with a garden full of food to feed us.
Bernard Preston is a retired DC with a passion for the kingdom of heaven, and the legacy we will leave our children on earth. He does not dance around the solar winter solstice apple tree, nor the yew or pine; rather he looks to family values and the cares of the lonely and lost.
One of our fundamental Christian duties must surely be to honour God's creation; but this is how mankind is doing it.
It is hard to know where to start with the the problems being so complex, but wean off plastic is certainly one good place to begin.
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