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 all. We are heading into the lunar cycle known in the Blackfoot calendar as Misamssootaa, or The Long Rains. This is the lunar cycle in which our summer solstice occurs. This year, the solstice fell on the new moon of Misamssootaa, which means that our summer season is late this year, as late as it possibly can be. Also, as the name suggests, this is the time of year when we tend to have our wetter weather and our thunderstorms. The wetter weather tends to bring out more fungal growth, so this can be a good time of year to learn your mushrooms. In the meantime, the plethora of life events that make up the summer continue.
Among the plant community, some of the early bloomers go to seed early this month already, notably the poplars – whose seeds sometimes thickly coat the forest floor – and the willows. Birch catkins are a little later to be pollinated; I see them turn green this lunar cycle. Many grass species are flowering – if you’ve never noticed grass flowers before it can be fun to look closely at the different kinds we have in the river valley and see the tiny yellow, purple, or white flowers arrayed at the top of the spike. Later in the lunar cycle, some plants will begin forming fruits, including wild sarsaparilla, wild geranium, honeysuckle, and red willow
This is a time for insect mating and insect metamorphosis. I have seen several different kinds of beetles (including rose curculios) mating in rose blooms this time of year, as well as asparagus beetles on wild asparagus. Along the river I have seen many exoskeletons of dragonflies and stoneflies. One summer I was astonished to witness some ants attacking a dragonfly as it struggled to emerge from its exoskeleton. They bit it, and blobs of green fluid bloomed out from it. Along the silty sections of the banks I have seen different species of tiger beetle active and hunting.
One summer I was privileged to observe a few female hunting spiders of some kind carrying their egg sacs behind them on their spinnerets. This is also a good time of year to look for crab spiders in various kinds of flowers, and if you’re lucky you’ll see one with an insect meal.
Crayfish remains begin to appear along the banks of the river as well, silty or rocky sections, as predators such as crows will feed on them. Some young birds will be fledging this time of year as well – I haven’t seen too many fledglings that I recognized as such other than the magpies, which nested in a spruce tree in the front yard of my place of residence.
Well, that’s only a small fragment of what I’ve seen going on in Misamssootaa around Forest Heights Park, and doubtless what I’ve seen is only an infinitesimal portion of what is going on. Enjoy your summer!