Nature Almanac February 2022

Catalpa and Locust trees in the late afternoon Sun
Catalpa and Locust trees in the late afternoon Sun.

Here in Philadelphia…

February is almost here. Well. finally it happened. My neighbor had two large Black Locust trees in his backyard cut down. The Catalpa is in another neighbor’s yard and has escaped the ax for now.

With the Black Locusts, gone are the food pantries of woodpeckers, the nesting sites of squirrels, and the hideouts of possums. There is less life in the back driveway. I understand why the trees were cut down, they were over a hundred feet tall and about twenty feet from the house. But I still mourn their passing.

Empty sky view where trees once stood.
Empty sky. Gone are all the trees.

When I was a child this sky view was filled with a tall tree canopy. Locusts, mulberries, oaks, sycamores, maples provided a shaded roadway where kid rode their bikes, played hopscotch, and  played with Barbie dolls. We created restaurants with our kitchen play sets. In summer, we stayed outside all day. The back drive was shaded and cool, even when the Sun beat down at high noon. Cars rarely drove on the road because all over the neighborhood the back drives were where kids played.

And we knew the kids on the streets behind ours., more playmates. I still see those same kids now grownups with children and grandchildren of their own. It was a truly a village. I miss it. 

dried winter seed pods of the black locust
Dried winter seed pods of the black locust – ‘Johnny Smokers’.

December 2021 – Activity in the Catalpa and Locust Trees. I watched a Hairy Woodpecker drilling for insect larva and eggs. It hopped along moving from branch to branch. In late afternoon, starlings gathered before murmuration and roosting. Seed pods, kids called Johnny Smokers, hang down from the bare Black Locust branches. Without the trees, will kids know the pods and call them ‘Johnny Smokers’? Will they use the long thin pods in sword fights like we did? Or even try to light and smoke them like we did? What a bad idea. 

January 2021 – It’s been very cold with degrees in the 20s° F. The Starlings still gather in the Catalpa tree that is left, but they are quiet. I haven’t seen them do their murmurations, then swoop down to the places where they roost. 

 

trees_catalpa_blossoms
Last summer’s Catalpa tree blossoms.

Cursed? May You Live in Interesting Times

Our lives have changed so much. We work so much. Our jobs waste our time. How many of us have empty, meaningless days at jobs with all our tasks complete? And we run out the clock until we can go home? Our precious moments on Earth, degraded to simply running out the clock. 

With the last two years (going into the third) of this pandemic, we have had time to think, to reassess. The many managers of the big corporations think we’ll eventually get back to ‘normal’. What they don’t realize is ‘normal’ wasn’t normal at all. What happens when we resist the insane job setup we had before? Corporations don’t have the power to force us into jobs. They can lobby politicians and governments to change laws and create situations to make holding a job crucial to survival. Debtors prisons anyone? Get out and stay out of debt. See Prosecutors and Judges Have Brought Back Debtors Prisons on the Nation.com. 

But I doubt returning to ‘normal’ will work. The Chinese curse, ‘may you live in interesting times’ comes to mind. These are interesting times. I have met several people and their friends who are beginning to grow food in their backyards and newly rented community garden plots. Supply chain interruptions and empty grocery store shelves happen but people still have to feed their children and themselves. 

Why Do We Have to Look for a Job? 

I’ve watched YouTube videos of people in other countries who have left the cities and moved back to farming communities, built earthen houses, and started home gardens (kitchen gardens). 

Here is a video from my favorite Earthen builder, author, and YouTuber, Jon Jandai. He lives in Thailand and visits the U.S. with his American wife. I’ve read his book on Earthen building, entitled Living with Earth. His book on Gardening (affiliate links on Amazon.com) is next. 

People in Thailand and all over the world are thinking about the same ideas as we are in the U.S. Billions of people are thinking along the same lines. The change we have been waiting and preparing for, perhaps it’s finally here. Decades of trial and error and successes have produced a sound blueprint for a simple, rational, life.

We have been experimenting with small communities, Earthen building, solar panels, rainwater catchment, composting toilets, organic home gardens (raised beds, fruit trees, and permaculture), compost, home fishponds, backyard chickens, bee hives, and native plants for food and medicine. We know how to live and we are ready for a change. 

Stay safe. Stay Grounded my friends. 

Donna's signature

 

 

 

Nature Almanac for February 2022

Oak Maze-Gill (Daedalea quercina) fungi growing on oak stump.
Oak Maze-Gill (Daedalea quercina) fungi growing on oak stump. Photo courtesy Joseph O’Brien, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Did You Know?

There are mushrooms present throughout the winter?  Shelf fungi (also called Pore Fungi) are classified in the family Polyporaceae. Shelf fungi are present on dead tree trunks, fallen logs and branches, and rotting stumps. The fruiting body which protrudes from the wood are large. The surfaces are tough and woody when mature. They look like shelves when they protrude from vertical surfaces. One such fungi, Oak Maze-Gill (Daedalea quercina) is present all year round. It’s present on oak and other hardwood stumps and logs. It is rarely found on living trees.

Winter’s Key Happenings

Winter Solstice December 21, 2021 at 10:59 a.m. EST

Spring Equinox – March 20, 2022 at 11:33 a.m. EDT

Winter from the solstice, lasts 89 days, 0 hours until the Spring Equinox.

In the Sky This February (Algonquin or Lenape Names):

This month’s moon is called the Snow or Hunger Moon Moon because snowfall happens often. It is also a time when people and animals can on hungry as winter stored food supplies dwindle, little food is left to forage, and the spring growth of edibles hasn’t started yet.

February 1st – New Snow or Hunger Moon

February 8th – First Quarter Snow or Hunger Moon

February 16th – Full Snow or Hunger Moon

February 23rd – Last Quarter Snow or Hunger Moon 

February 1 – New Moon – The night sky will be very dark. The Moon will be on the opposite side of the Earth and the Sun will not shine on the face of the Moon. The Moon’s face will be dark and not compete with the light of the stars. It will be a good time to stargaze. At least for the few nights the Moon’s face will remain mostly dark.

February 16th – The planet Mercury will be at its’ highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. It’s visible in the eastern sky before sunrise.

For more sky events see the Astronomy Calendar of Celestials Events on Seasky.org

“The Moon’s path across the sky changes with the seasons. Full Moons are very High in the sky (at midnight) between November and February (winter) and very low in the sky between May and July” – The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2021, p. 102

  • New moon always rises near sunrise
  • First Quarter near noon
  • Full Moon always rises near sunset
  • Winter Full Moons are high in the sky
  • Last Quarter near midnight
  • Moonrise occurs about 50 minutes later each day

Stars in the Winter Sky

The Sky This Month on Astonomy.com

Astronomy Calendar of Celestials Events on Seasky.org

Circumpolar Stars

Using the Pleiades as a Natural Calendar

Algonquin Moon Names (with video)

 

Nature Study and Nature Journaling Activities for February

Animals to Observe: Eastern Gray Squirrels

Winter Nature Journal and Prompts https://donnallong.com/winter-nature-journal/

 

That’s it for this issue. Look for the next issue at the end of March.

Last month’s Nature Almanac and Nature Journal for January 2022

Last Year’s Nature Almanac for February 2021

If you have a comment or suggestion, as always leave a comment below.

Happy Nature Journaling!

2 comments

  1. Thank you, Donna. I love learning all you write. I’m sorry for the locusts, too. Sounds like it’s time to plant new trees:)

    • Hi Vera, thanks for your comment. I’m glad you like my writing. I would love new trees, but my neighbors work so hard I doubt they have time to think about.

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