Today is Winter Solstice 2023.  Molly offers some seasonal poems at the end of this post.  All best wishes for all that is good at this season, and in these times.

A North Dakota retired farmer sent his Christmas letter recently, including this photo: “Sunflowers…in 1980s”

The photo brought memories for me.

The farmland pictured was perhaps four miles from the farm where my mother grew up.  Back in the day, I would try to set aside a week or so each year to go back to the farm and help Vince and Edithe, my uncle and aunt, with whatever, usually in August or September.

In at least one of these years – likely in the 1980s – Uncle Vince had a go with growing sunflowers.  As summer went on, his field looked exactly like this one: beautiful.

Of course, farming (and life, for that matter) is not seamlessly pleasant, and as I remember, growing sunflowers had a downside for Uncle Vince – so sunflowers were a brief diversion for him from the more normal wheat.

As the sunflowers matured the ample heads filled with sunflower seeds.

Sunflowers had their downside for the farmer.  Along with being a yummy place for assorted insect pests, a sunflower patch nearing maturity was a banquet site for blackbirds, and sometimes, hundreds and maybe thousands of them would drop in and enjoy a free meal. A vexed Vince would take out his shotgun and fire a few rounds, which would temporarily spook the blackbirds far across the field, but they’d always come back.  Of course, the other insects didn’t much care.

Vince was a gentle man.  Looking a blackbird in the eye, shotgun in hand, he’d never shoot the bird.

Even had he wanted to, the blackbirds had the advantage and  common sense.   Fields were large, and days were long.  “Come on in!” seemed the invitation, and they accepted, happily.


Farming is an honorable profession, with its abundant risks and sometimes its rewards.  One of the rewards is vistas such as the photo.  Best to savor the moment, as the photographer did, above.

As we head full tilt into winter, maybe this photo will bring to mind some of your own memories, wherever you live or lived.  Vince and Edithe were they still alive, would be looking forward to the seed catalogs to arrive, a break in winters isolation.

All best wishes for a very good Christmas and New Year.

POSTNOTE: I’m not a farmer, and as I was contemplating this brief post, I wasn’t sure that Vince’s nemesis was blackbirds.  Maybe it was just my imagination.

I searched ‘sunflowers and blackbirds’ and indeed the crop and the bird have more than a casual relationship.  Just search the two words – sunflowers and blackbirds – together, and you’ll find plenty of articles.  Same with sunflowers and insects.

POSTNOTE 2: Ty, in another Christmas letter, offers a quote from Goethe, with a comment: “We are adjusting in our own ways to the virus.  Now it is time for us to make the “new normal” part of our lives.

May your holidays and New Era be filled with happiness, good times and good health.”

POSTNOTE 3, from Molly:

Enclosed are some relevant poems, plus 2 rather wonderful bits of music… from the classical (John Rutter–the dark part) to Gordon Bok–who sings the light. Solstice 2023 Molly.  [The links to the music referred to are here and here.]
Blessings to each of you, as the season of Light returns,
3 replies
  1. Jeff D Pricco
    Jeff D Pricco says:

    I have seen flocks of thousands of blackbirds over sunflower fields in early november. swirling. tens of thousands of them. a wonder.

    • dickbernard
      dickbernard says:

      Yes. There were endless similar examples, many which I witnessed. The home sat on a hillock overlooking an essentially treeless prairie. On west and north sides were long established shelter belts. The south and east vistas were wide open. Frequently, including some times I was there, you could watch thunderstorms develop. They were beautiful and could be awesomely destructive, such as hail storms. There was nothing you could do but watch, and hope that the destructive storm would miss your own fields.
      In early August, 1949 – I was 9 – we were overnight at the farm when an extremely destructive straight line wind came in from the south in mid-night. It took the roof off the barn, but miracle of miracle of miracles did not damage the house we were in a couple of hundred feet away. The six adults had a heap of “hail Mary’s” flying heavenward, you betcha. We five kids ranged from one to nine. I was awake, but other than the excitement unaware of the potential consequences. Maybe it was divine interventions; or it could have been the hedge and the surrounding trees, that saved us…. I think Mary got the credit!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.