Winter solstice

Whata loaf of sourdough bread better way to celebrate the winter solstice, having survived the cold dark hours of the longest night of the year and to greet the return of increasingly longer days, than by baking a loaf of bread?

And let me tell you what a joy it is to be able to reliably bake bread now, after so many years of making hockey pucks and other non-edible doughy failures! Especially since I’m using a strong sourdough starter that I created myself, from scratch, a starter that doesn’t require coddling with regular feeding or dumping the resulting discard. No, this is a magic starter that does everything I have wanted from a sourdough starter.

Well, maybe not everything. It’s a baby starter, meaning while it’s strong enough to get dough to rise, it’s not yet mature to give the resulting loaves that lovely sour flavor I’ve been looking for so long. That’ll come with time. Meanwhile, I get to enjoy perfectly fine loaves of bread once a week without a lot of fuss and no kneading. Yay!

I take no credit for this except for being able to follow the directions provided by Grant Yoder, whose website and associated YouTube videos reveal the marvelous secrets of building a sourdough starter in six days, and after that how to make yummy bread with that starter on the seventh day! Makes a baker feel like… well, you know. Powerful. Accomplished. And tempted to eat a whole lotta bread.

I like the imagery of the loaf of bread and the celebration of Yule/ winter solstice. Yeah, a Pagan celebration but I don’t care. I’m not Pagan (or Wiccan, Christian or any other kind of religiosity) but then I’m not really celebrating Yule, anyway. I’m celebrating my own ritual on a day that feels right for it.

As a person off the grid, it matters a whole bunch what the sun and weather are doing. Today’s the first day of winter, but my PV power system has been struggling for weeks now. It’s a combination of fewer daylight hours, plus the sun being lower in the sky and shadows hitting my solar panels way too early in the afternoon, topped off with the inevitable cloudy days now and again, no matter how sunny the Southwest is supposed to be. Add onto that the need to draw power from the PV system for longer hours at night. Altogether it means that I have to be super conservative with power use from about November through January. It means I have to unplug everything I don’t absolutely need as soon as the shadows hit my solar panels.

And of course sometimes I screw up. That makes it feel like the 21st century equivalent of the olden days when during the long, long nights the only light came from flames, when the earth was dormant and all critters hid from the cold. When survival was not assured except through the ability to endure until the light of the sun returned again.

In my case, it means that I start getting super excited when the winter solstice approaches, and boy howdy, do I feel like celebrating when it’s here. Even though I can’t really notice the difference right now, it doesn’t matter. I know what I know.

What I know is today feels like the real New Year for me, and so I’m wishing you a HAPPY NEW YEAR! And hey, only 89 days till spring!

fire burning in a wood stove



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About lifstrand

Lif Strand began writing fiction when she was a kid. Nobody read her stories. A former Arabian horse breeder and endurance racer, then reporter and freelance white paper writer, Lif lives in a straw bale house off-the-grid and writes fiction once more--or at least whenever she’s not scooping horse poop, taking photos, or playing with fabric art.

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