The longest night

Today is solstice day–the winter solstice for us northerners.

It is not just any old winter solstice, but supposedly the longest night in world history. Or at least since 1912 (the story I am referencing has revised its claims).

Tonight, we will need that increasing light of the sixth candle all the more. It will be an unusually long night, and tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh (the new moon), meaning tonight will be especially dark as well as long.

Chanukah always straddles the new moon that occurs near the winter solstice, but the addition of light each night is extra-special when that new moon and the solstice coincide or nearly do. And extra-extra-special when we it’s “the longest night in the history of the earth” (or even since 1912)!

The beginning of the months

This month shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year.

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It’s the first day of spring* and Nowruz, the Persian new year. Tomorrow, the 25th of Adar, is Shabbat ha-Chodesh on the Hebrew calendar, the Shabbat preceding the first of Nisan, when we remember the blooming of liberation. The 25 of Adar also just happens to be the anniversary of the day when your orchardist and his beloved were under the chupah.

So what better time to celebrate amidst the blooms?

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* If you are north of the equator, of course.

Crescent over LF HQ as spring comes early

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(moon and planet; photo taken just after sundown on 29 January 2009/ 5 Shvat 5769)

We may be only a days past the second new moon following the winter solstice, but I think we can say that spring is here at Ladera Frutal. The days have been clear, dry, and very warm since the second day of 2009. It is still chilly at night, thanks to all that clear and dry air. But signs of early spring are all around.

For example, the ‘Tropic Snow’ peach.

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(photo taken on 31 January 2009)

This variety has a very low chilling requirement, and while it has begun blooming in late January many times before, I have never before seen it at nearly full bloom before the month of January was out!

Even the little ‘Garden Prince’ almond is starting to get into the act.

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(photo taken on 29 January 2009 / 4 Shvat 5769)

Maybe this year it will be in full bloom by Tu Bi-Shvat! That’s now a less than a week away, but it just might make it.

The two trees pictured above are just a little way down the slope from Ladera Frutal HQ, where chill does not stick around in weather like this. Down in the corralito, on the other hand, it is still getting cold enough each night for continued daily chilling accumulation–barely. (As I type these words about an hour and a half past sundown, there is a 7-degree difference between the two locations.)

Even in the corralito, several trees will have many blooms in the coming days.

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The ‘Mesch Mesch Amrah’ plumcot–always one of our favorite fruits–is about to burst with new leaves and a few blooms. This last picture was taken on 29 January. In the meantime, I have seen two or three flowers open. But it probably had only marginally sufficient chill this winter and it looks like it is leafing out without much of a bloom. Other trees nearby with at least a few flower buds swelling include the ‘Newcastle’ and ‘Katy’ and ‘Royal Rosa’ apricots and the ‘Flavor Delight’ aprium. All of these tend to be early, and have had the stray late-January bloom before, and all are pretty low chill. Even so, spring does seem to be just a bit early this year.

As for all those trees down in the corralito with higher chilling requirements, I am hoping they can hang on to their dormancy just a little longer. A blast of chill may come later this week, but it probably will not stick around long enough to reach the 500 chill hours that I normally could count on in this coldest part of Ladera Frutal. It could be a somewhat lean year for many of our deciduous fruit varieties.

Happy new year!

Somehow I forgot to note that last night was the second new moon following the winter solstice.

That makes this the Chinese New Year!

So, happy new year, wherever you may be celebrating. Of course, if you are doing so in China, you are not reading this. F&V is far too subversive to be read in the PRC. Must be all that pornography about luscious apricots!

Also, the second new moon following the winter solstice is Rosh Chodesh Sh’vat, meaning the new year for trees is two weeks from today.

Rejoice, as spring is coming!