Join Nathan Binnema, Secretary and long time volunteer of Edmonton Permaculture Guild as he shares his practice of Phenological Engagement.
Phenological Engagement is a 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, with reference to both solar and lunar time. I have 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 for each lunar cycle.
We are now in the sixth lunar cycle of winter, the lunar cycle known in the Blackfoot calendar as Sa’Aiki’Somm, or The Duck Moon. In Ryan First Diver’s course, I learned that one of the most significant events in the phenological calendar occurs on the full moon of this lunar cycle, the first full moon after Equinox. It is around this time that many of the birds, particularly waterfowl lay their eggs, or begin incubating their eggs. The celebrations of this event are the originals from which the Easter Holiday in the Gregorian calendar were derived.
This lunar cycle is a time of many beginnings. I’ll share a few events I’ve noticed happening around here in my past three years of study in a few major categories.
Weather: the river ice thaws, and the snow melts. One year, our only hailstorm was in this lunar cycle – not sure if that was a pattern or an anomaly.
Plants: Green shoots begin to appear. I’ve been able to tentatively ascertain a sequence of brome and wormwood first, then alfalfa, then clover, then wintergreen. Aspen and poplar catkins bloom, and their leaf buds expand. Saskatoon and prickly rosebuds also appear though actual leafing out, for the most part, does not occur until the next lunar cycle.
Mammals: Snowshoe hares change to their brown summer coats.
Birds: I begin to hear merlins this lunar cycle. Crows, gulls, juncos, robins, and common mergansers return in numbers, though first sightings may occur in the previous lunar cycle. Geese, of course, are nesting.
Insects & Arachnids: Thatching ant mounds wake up. Wolf spiders and fishing spiders appear. I see spider silk strands crisscrossing the forest, though few fully constructed webs. The first butterflies appear, notably pearl crescents, fire-rimmed tortoiseshells, and mourning cloaks. I begin to see a few flies including blue bottles, green bottles, and hoverflies. In the pools, I see water striders and water boatmen. On the ground, I see tiny shiny black ground beetles.
No doubt there’s a lot more going on – I look forward to learning more with you, as the circle of life continues.