As we’re swept away by the excitement of the festive season and prepare to bring in the new year, one important day is easily often overlooked. Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year and the official start of summer, and has recently passed in the southern hemisphere, 22nd December this year.
For us, living off the grid, this day bares huge significance. It is the start of a new season as we enter the hotter months of the year and also marks the time when days and daylight will begin to lessen as each pass. This impacts our crops, what we harvest, how much daylight we have to work and the amount of sunlight we’ll have to generate power, as well as our power consumption needs.
For anyone trying to live a more sustainable life though, it also marks an important time of change in the year important to plan around.
First, what is Summer Solstice?
Summer solstice is driven by the earth’s tilted axis and its orbit around the sun. It is when the Earth reaches the point in its orbit where the South Pole (in the southern hemisphere’s case anyway) is angled closest to the sun. This normally falls between the 21-22nd of December each year.
Summer solstice marks the start of summer and is when we will be experiencing our longest day(s) and when the sun will be at its brightest.
What does Summer Solstice mean for Eco Living?
Crops & Harvest
It means the end of your opportunity to plant or grow many types of herbs, vegetables and fruits. There are some that are ideal for planting at the beginning of summer (eg. Herbs that love the heat and some fruits like melons) and even towards the end (eg. winter vegetables), but your options are limited. For most edibles, your optimal growing time is in spring so if you haven’t planted before Summer solstice, you may have missed your best growing opportunities.
Summer solstice is also a good time to consider harvesting many crops before they are lost to the hotter days and/or changing angle of the sun.
As we enter the warmer months of the year it’s easy to reach for the power guzzling air conditioner to cool you and your home. We are reminded at this time of year to opt for more sustainable methods of cooling wherever possible.
You could try getting outside more to enjoy the breeze and fresh air at the same time. For cooling the home, there might be more economical as well as environmental solutions like strategic shading (shade sails or planting tall trees) or upgrading your home insulation.
Living off grid, we rely on solar power for almost all of our energy needs. The start of summer means the sun is now at is strongest which is great for us. However, Summer solstice also marks the time of year when the days will start to gradually get shorter. That means that our ability to create and store power will start to gradually diminish as the season roles on.
For us, it is also the time the angle of the sun changes which starts to cast new shadows on our property. This impacts our crops as well as our ability to generate and store power.
Summer solstice has an impact on our bee colonies and bee behaviour too and Eco Food Wrap beeswax wraps would be non existent without the bees that create the wax we use.
In the lead up to the longest day of the year, the queen bee will be at the height of her egg laying capacity, laying up to 60,000 eggs per day. Summer Solstice marks the point in time when the hive start to reduce the amount they feed their queen and as such, cause her to reduce her egg laying rate, laying less each day. This change in hive behaviour means that there are more adult bees available to gather pollen, right at the peak of pollen availability for the season. It also means less babies to feed, allowing the collonie to store the surplus nectar in preparation for the coming cooler months.