Fresh & Local
Happy New Year, Everyone!
Column #49, Published Aug 24th, 2012
Terry and I are on a different calendar than most everyone else. We are on a “greens” calendar.
Greens, such as spinach, lettuce and mescluns, will not survive the brutally hot summer months of June and July here in Virginia. So when the summer heat rolls in, the greens roll up and bolt, and we finish out the summer selling berries and flowers.
But when August comes, everything begins again. The day with the longest daylight, known as the summer solstice, is June 21st. Statistically the hottest day of the year is July 22nd. The hottest day of the year lags the longest day by a month. On August 1st, the days will have been getting shorter for six weeks and the average daily temperatures will be declining.
Once the daily high temperatures in August stay in the low 90s, there are some mescluns greens like Tokyo Bekana (a.k.a. “summer lettuce”) and tatsoi that will germinate and grow with irrigation. When the daily high temperatures stay in the mid 80s, cool season crops like lettuce and mustards will germinate and grow. And once the daily high temperatures stay in the 70s, cold season crops like spinach and kale will germinate and grow.
With care and protection, these fall greens will continue growing right through the winter and spring until they finally succumb to the summer heat usually by the end of May. But this all starts in August. That is when our year starts.
So on July 31st, Terry and I celebrated the New Year. We grilled some nice porterhouse steaks and popped a bottle of Spumante Brut. We talked about what worked and what didn’t. We talked about what to keep and what to drop in the upcoming year. And we re-ordered the to-do list.
It makes a lot of sense to start a new year on a day with some significance. So how did we end up with our calendar New Year’s Day being on January 1st in the middle of winter?
The ancient Babylonians celebrated the beginning of the New Year on the spring equinox (equal length of day and night). This is the beginning of spring and planting time for summer crops.
Ancient Egyptians originally celebrated the New Year with the Beautiful Feast of Opet around the middle of June, which was when the Nile River usually overflowed its banks.
The Persians celebrated the beginning of the New Year on the autumnal equinox, which is September 22nd.
The Greeks at one time celebrated the New Year on the winter solstice (shortest day December 21st) and then later, the summer solstice (longest day June 21st).
Both our Gregorian calendar and the Julian calendar that preceded it, were based on the Roman calendar. The Romans started out celebrating March as the first month of the year. They were back to celebrating spring.
The Romans dedicated a month of the year to Janus, who was the Roman god of beginnings and transitions. Somewhere along the line in Rome, it was decided that since Janus was the god of beginnings, January should be the first month of the year. And that is how it came to be that our calendar starts on a cold and dreary January 1st that really has no significance to anything in our lives.
Forget January 1st. Here’s wishing all of you a happy New Year!
Bryant Osborn and his wife Terry own Corvallis Farms in Culpeper County. His column on fresh and locally grown food runs every Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org