Join Nathan Binnema, Secretary on our Board of Directors and longtime volunteer with the Edmonton Permaculture Guild, as he shares his practice of Phenological Engagement with this ongoing blog series.
Phenological Engagement is the practice of learning one’s local ecology through visiting the same site regularly throughout the year, getting to know who’s living there and the significant events of their lives in reference to both solar and lunar time. I’ve been engaged in the practice here in Edmonton for three years, beginning with a year of study in Blackfoot Phenology with Ryan Heavy Head, now Ryan First Diver. I’ve learned enough now to begin sharing some of the regular events I’ve noticed at my site, Forest Heights Park, for each lunar cycle.
Greetings! We’re now heading into the lunar cycle of the Flower Moon called Aapistsisskitsaato’s, the first cycle of summer in the Blackfoot lunar calendar. This is when the number of changes becomes overwhelming and nearly impossible to track more than a fraction of what is going on.
Many, perhaps the majority of plants go through their blooming cycle at this time, from flower buds opening to forming fruiting bodies. Some common trees or shrubs I’ve seen blooming at Forest Heights Park include saskatoons, chokecherries, red osier dogwood, sandbar willow, wolf willow, wild rose and caragana. Common wildflowers in bloom include wild geraniums, Solomon’s seal, sweet clover, various mustards and northern bedstraw.
All kinds of insects begin to emerge as well, the most notorious being mosquitos, but also damselflies and skimmers, bumblebees, beetles and tiny white moths. This is a good time of year to find beetles mating, and I’ve seen a wide variety of beetles in rose blooms this lunar cycle as well. You might begin to see spots of “foam” on various plants — there’s a froghopper nymph in these splotches. We also get masses of green caterpillars dangling on their threads from trees. I’ve found aphid colonies on aspens, sandbar willow, curled dock and absinthium, and their eggs in curled up river alder leaves.
Now is also the time baby birds and animals emerge. I’ve seen mallard hens and common mergansers giving swimming lessons to their young ones out on the river this lunar cycle. This is also the lunar cycle when I’ve seen juvenile bald eagles, which don’t yet have the “bald” head, and I confused them with hawks for a while before being corrected.
One cool thing I remember learning about this lunar cycle is the egg webs that some spiders spin, as opposed to webs for catching prey. I found a really long web hanging vertically like a curtain all around and in and out of some branches of a cotoneaster, with dozens of tiny spiders on it.
And there’s a mystery I’ve encountered this lunar cycle, a phenomenon of leaf fragments suspended in the air by what look like lines of spider silk. I haven’t found out who does that, or for what purpose. Another mystery is the brown paste that I’ve found exuding from stems of certain grasses.
I hope you find lots to engage you, and your own mysteries to follow this summer!