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RBR News | December 22, 2015

Posted in Ranch Report

Monday, December 21st was the winter solstice, marking the longest night of the year. From this point forward, until the summer solstice in June, the days begin to get longer. This time of year an old farmer friend of mine always notes, “summer is just around the corner.”  

At ACES at Rock Bottom Ranch, we are very much aware of the day length, or photoperiod, and its effects on the growing season. Shorter days (less direct sunlight) lead to colder temperatures, snow, and ground freezing. But even inside a heated structure, plant growth and chicken egg production slows to a near halt when the photoperiod falls below 10 hours per day.

At our latitude, we have less than ten hours of daylight beginning around November 17th and ending around January 25th.  Many in the agriculture world refer to this time of year as the “Persephone Effect” or “Persephone months”.  Civilizations have been aware of these astronomical realities for thousands of years and the Greeks created the myth of Persephone to explain it.  Eliot Coleman explains in an excerpt from The Winter Harvest Handbook: 

                                                           

“Early Greek farmers, whose practical experience added mythical stories to astronomical fact, knew intimately that the power of the sun and the length of the day are the principal influences on agriculture. They created the myth of Persephone to explain the effect of winter conditions. As the story goes, the earth goddess Demeter had a daughter, Persephone, who was abducted by Hades to live with him as his wife in the netherworld. Demeter would have nothing to do with this and threatened to shut down all plant growth. Zeus intervened and brokered a deal whereby Persephone would spend only the winter months with her husband, Hades. Demeter, saddened by her daughter’s absence, made the earth barren during that time.”

Even though there are not many plants growing, agriculture production is still ongoing at the Ranch. The laying hens, pigs, sheep, donkeys, ducks, and rabbits are all scattered about the Ranch pastures. Our hoop houses are currently home to adolescent kale, leeks, spinach, and Brussels sprouts; these plants will grow slowly over the next few weeks, and come February (as the days continue to lengthen) their growth will increase noticeably.   

Available Products
Products can be purchased at the Ranch during open hours, Monday – Friday 9AM – 5PM. Please call ahead to confirm availability or to place an order for pick-up.

A full pork inventory is available including chops, bacon, ribs, roasts, and ground pork.

A very limited harvest of kale, spinach and leeks is available at Hallam Lake and Rock Bottom Ranch on Wednesday, December 23rd. A small supply is also available at Meat & Cheese Restaurant in Aspen.

Egg production is at the lowest point of the year, so we will be out of eggs for the next several weeks.  


~Jason Smith, Rock Bottom Ranch Director

During the winter, Rock Bottom Ranch is open Monday – Friday 9AM – 5PM, with farm tours on Wednesdays and Fridays at 11AM. For questions about Rock Bottom Ranch please email Jason at jsmith@aspennature.org.