December 21. Winter Solstice. The first day of Winter, officially. But winter has already made itself felt, and while temperatures will lower a little more in the next month and a half before they burst back upward again, winter is well under way. The First Day of Winter is also the LAST day that the days get shorter.

As the 21st of December approaches, I find myself counting down the days. We go out to feed the animals a little earlier every afternoon, and I look forward to the long days of summer when we can have dinner and then feed the animals afterward. Easier to fit a lot into the day.

We do not have heat or light in the coop, so when the sun goes down, the chickens bed down. No point feeding them after dark, they won't get it until morning anyway. We still get eggs all year, even when half are molting and the temps are well below freezing, we get at least a few eggs each day from our determined chickens.

This year, we've hardly had a winter at all. Oh, a day here, a week there, of freezing temperatures. But today, on the 12 of December, we fed animals with very little extra clothing - I was wearing a short sleeved t-shirt, and did not feel chilled. The ground is not frozen. Usually it is at this time of year. Having not got any colder than this, I expect we will have a few more cold weeks to come, but it looks like the winter intends to treat us kindly and let us off with a mild season instead of a harsh one. I have new livestock coming in, so this will make their adjustment easier.

I rarely paid attention to the winter solstice before we started keeping chickens, but now it is one of the markers of the passing of winter. Longer days will be welcome as we creep through winter and into spring.

So while tradition may say that the shortest day of the year is the beginning of winter, to me it is the signal that winter must come to an end. A turning point. Maybe not as eagerly awaited as Christmas each year, but a day that will have a bigger impact on the tenor of my days through the rest of winter.