By Dave Curry
A big groundhog showed up last Wednesday at the observatory near the observation deck. On a south facing slope, he stood up and looked out over the broom sage, probably wondering what was going on. Twenty four hours later, temps had dropped and an inch of snow covered the ground. Mr. Groundhog was no doubt back in his den dreaming of fields of clover or whatever it is that groundhogs dream about. Cold winds with a little snow continued on through the weekend as winter grinds into spring.
The moon is waxing toward full on the 25th and yes, we did just receive our 2013 copy of the Harris’ Farmer’s Almanac. Anytime in the last quarter – after March 4 – would be good for planting those fruit trees, as long as the ground is thawed. If still frozen, then another opportunity will come along in early April.
It is seldom that you see a really good explanation of planting by the signs, but this year’s almanac has just that. Nestled in between the erectile dysfunction correction and spiritual psychic ads was the best description of gardening by the moon phases one could want. In general waxing, or as the moon gradually increases towards the full, bright moon is generally considered the best time to plant above ground crops like lettuce, beans and cabbage. The waning moon, as it moves to the dark or new phase, is the time to plant below ground crops such as potatoes and carrots.
Some farmers prefer the advanced detail of the daily signs. In other words, the 28 day lunar calendar is divided among the 12 signs of the Zodiac. Half are barren signs, good for harvesting or weeding. The other six are called the fruitful signs, good for planting and growing.
The signs may also govern many other aspects of everyday life, such as when to put shingles on the roof so that they will lay flat and not turn up on the corners. If bull calves are being turned into steers, there is a best day for that. If fence is being built or trees are being pruned, the almanac will suggest a suitable day. Long before iPhones had bunches of applications to guide and entertain you through your day, the almanac had an app for that.
Scarlet Cup – Showy Harbinger of Spring
by Gwen Balogh
Pocahontas Nature Club
My son and I went for a hike up along a southeast facing slope of Droop Mountain late in the afternoon on February 11 – mainly to view and photograph a frozen waterfall.
Skirting the damp bottom of a steep, mossy rock face, we were greeted by at least a dozen of the most intensely blood-red fungi in North America – Scarlet Cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca). Although some were partly hidden by brown leaves, even the tiniest slivers of these brilliant beauties were conspicuous.
Commonly appearing in March, Scarlet Cup is one of the earliest of our springtime fungi – and certainly the most eye-catching! Found in moist sections of mixed deciduous forests, it often occurs in the same spots year after year.
I have rarely come across them in February, so it was quite a treat to discover so many.
Scarlet Cup is non-poisonous but most sources report it as none-too-tasty – and besides, I think they’re way too pretty to eat!
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