Welcome May {2017}

Near the beginning of each month we like to pause and take a look at what’s going on in the world around us, with a particular focus on animal activity, farmers’ fields, and environmental holidays. *Somehow we took a year-long hiatus from posting our monthly welcomes. Anyway, we’re hopping back on the train, and you can find our archive of previous welcomes here.*

This is our third spring living in Colorado, and I think I’ve finally adjusted to the weather patterns. For example, I now understand that spring is just another word for limbo (defined as : “an intermediate state or condition”). One day provides the most beautiful summer weather you could imagine, the next day you’re clearing the snow from your car.  That weather may drive some people crazy, but I’ve grown to love it. It creates more of a slow, gently slide from winter into summer, making the spring seem like it lasts forever, and completely wiping any sense of what month it is from my brain. I’m pretty sure that April lasted 50 days this year, yet I thought June was starting tomorrow. “WHAT IS GOING ON?”, says the well-adjusted Coloradan. 😉

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Welcome June

On the first Wednesday of each month we like to pause and take a look at what’s going on in the world around us, with a particular focus on animal activity, farmers’ fields, and environmental holidays.

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We finally made it to our favorite season! To be fair, we love them all, but there’s just something special about summer with its warm hot days, bbqs, miles of fresh veggies and fruit (particularly the ripe watermelons), and long nights on the deck. Last week was still a bit chilly up in the mountains, but I’m happy to report that summer has finally arrived! We’re planning our first camping trip as a family of four this weekend, and I’ve gone a little crazy making some homemade bug spray and sunscreen this week, but more on that in another post.

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It’s the Season

In researching animal activity for the month of June, this is what we’ve discovered : it’s time to get it on… and if you’re successful in that arena, it’s time to care for those young! We caught these ladybugs in the act last week, and it was around this time last year that we were keeping our eye on the osprey nest with freshly hatched chicks! By now, most migrating animals are in their summer homes (winter if you’re in the southern hemisphere); if they need a nest or den, they’ve built it, and now they’re just looking for a mate and raising the next generation. Want to hear more?

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Welcome March!

On the first Wednesday of each month we like to pause and take a look at what’s going on in the world around us, with a particular focus on animal activity, celestial events, and our farmers’ fields.

Wow, our first monthly welcome post took place one year ago, and we had just started Live Seasoned a couple of weeks before that, which means we’ve had our first anniversary and didn’t even acknowledge it! Sarah and I make the perfect old couple.

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Bee Business:

March is a tricky month for bees.  Bee colony activity usually starts up again during late February or early March depending on the temperature.  Temperature is the determining factor as far as honeybees are concerned. As the weather gets warmer, the days lengthen, and pollen becomes available, the queen starts laying eggs, and the bees become active gathering nectar and pollen from early flowers and storing honey in combs.

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If you’re backyard beekeeping, March is the month when colonies can die of starvation if their honey stores aren’t big enough.  There is a lot of activity and lots of hungry bee bellies to fill, so you may want to take a peek into your boxes to make sure there’s enough sugary syrup for your bees to feed on.  Later this month, bee colonies increases brood combs and populations reach their peak capacity.  The brood combs are the beeswax structure of cells where the queen bee lays her eggs.  When the hive gets too crowded, the colony gets ready to swarm, which sounds terrifying, but it is actually the natural method of reproduction of the colony.

When the colony preps to swarm, the drone population increases and a few queen cells are built to produce a new queen.  A few larvae that would normally develop into worker bees are fed a special gland food called royal jelly, their cells are reconstructed to accommodate the larger queen, and her rate of development increases. If you’re new to this bee business, a drone is a male bee and the product of an unfertilized egg.  If the egg was fertilized it would be a worker bee not a drone.  Worker bees are female, they have stingers and they help collect pollen and nectar.  Drone bees exist primarily to mate with a fertile queen, which brings us back to swarming.  Swarming usually occurs in March to June. The old queen leaves the hive with about half of the bees to a new home elsewhere. The remaining bees in the colony continue their work rearing brood and collecting pollen. When a virgin queen emerges from her cell, she stings the remaining queen cells and kills any other queen she finds – real nice lady that queen. Six to eight days after mass-murdering the other queens, the virgin queen flies out to mate with drones and return to the colony as the new queen. A few days after mating, the queen bee will start laying 1,500-2000 eggs a day.

Night Sky Watch:

As you may know, I’m lunar obsessed and while I remind you guys all the time to check out the moon, THIS IS THE MONTH! Ok, every month is the month, but during March the full moon hangs out in the sky all night long. On March 5th we’ll see the full crow moon rise around sunset and set around sunrise.  During the rest of 2015 the moon will spend some time in the daytime sky. It’s no super moon (it’s actually the smallest full moon of 2015), but it will be glowing allllll night long. So take a night hike or at least spend a few minutes gazing up!

Venus is visible as an evening star in the southwestern sky this month.  If you’re in the southern hemisphere, Mercury is your morning star during March.  Last month, Jupiter was in opposition (meaning opposite the sun) and this month it will still be shining brightly most of the night!

Starting on March 8th and continuing for a couple weeks, a faint zodiacal light will be visible just after sunset.  Find Venus and Mars (I use Star Walk for help) and you should see the zodiacal light that’s being reflected from interplanetary matter.

In a few weeks we all celebrate the Equinox, which means the start of Spring or the beginning of Autumn depending on which hemisphere you reside.  Friday, March 20th is a day for celebration as the sun crosses the celestial equator – pull on your rain boots and go splash around in the snow melt.  If you’re in the southern hemisphere, appreciate each and every Autumn day this year 🙂

Venus and the moon buddy up in the western twilight sky on March 22nd.

On March 24th, the first quarter moon passes close to the red giant star Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster.  The moon passes in front of Aldebaran if you’re an observer in northern latitudes: Kazakhstan, Russia, northeastern Scandinavia, extreme northeastern China, northern Greenland, northwestern Canada, and Alaska.  More on Aldebaran and the Hyades cluster here.

Earth Days:

There are a handful of great environmental holidays to celebrate this month!  I plan on participating in each one, wanna join me?!  I am so thankful for water and woods that I feel like every day is international river, forest and water day, but I’m going to try to do something extra special on those specific dates this year.

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Do you have kiddos? Teach them the importance of forests and rivers this month.  At least read The Lorax or watch the video!   During the Meatout, I plan on eating these scones, cold oat salad and maybe a rice pulse.  I can’t wait to relive my days without power (when I first moved into my current apartment) during Earth Hour.  Maybe we’ll make it a whole Earth Night in our household.  Whatever you do or don’t do, at least spread the word to your family and friends about these environmental holidays this month.  The bottom line is getting the word out, someone needs to speak for the trees 😉

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Welcome February!

On the first Wednesday of each month we like to pause and take a look at what’s going on in the world around us, with a particular focus on animal activity, celestial events, and our farmers’ fields.

Welcome February! Bye, bye January.. you suck.  Am I the only one who thinks that? Hands down my least favorite month of the year, which makes February that much sweeter.  Even though February is only a few days shy of a full month, it always seems to scoot on by.  Here’s what’s happening this month:

Animal Activity:

I usually take a walk in the woods every day because it’s my job. Actually my job is dog walking, but they like to hike, I like to hike, to the woods we go!  Anyway, this week I have been hearing and seeing a lot more bird activity.  The squirrels started scurrying about more and more a couple weeks ago, but now I’m hearing lots of rustling in the bushes.  If you focus your eyes you’ll notice little song birds hopping around in the brush.  I also saw a few red-headed woodpeckers this week.  It’s nice to feel like you’re not the only animal (besides the pups) in the woods.

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Welcome January!

Typically, on the first Wednesday of each month we like to pause and take a look at what’s going on in the world around us, with a particular focus on animal activity, celestial events, and our farmers’ fields, but our January’s off to the most fantastic slow and lazy start, so excuse us for this delayed post!

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Baby it’s cold outside. so. so. cold. At least that’s the case on the East Coast where we’re being hit with an Arctic cold front that’s bringing the coldest temperatures of the winter so far and setting records. We’re considering ourselves lucky that we woke up to single digit positive and not negative temps the past few days. Bundling up to go outside got us thinking about all the non-migratory animals and their strategies for surviving the long, cold winter. So, we’ll be exploring that today along with this month’s celestial events and a touch of what’s planned for our kitchens this month.

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Earth and Sky

There are a number of different strategies that non-migratory animals use to survive the winter. In addition to the freezing temperatures, these animals are also faced with low food supplies and little to no water. Some mammals will hibernate, finding or creating a safe space where they will hunker down, reduce their metabolic activity, thereby lowering their body temperature, and wait out the winter. Some reptiles will bruminate, going into their own form of dormancy that’s similar to hibernation. Other animals will remain relatively active, living off of the food supplies they stored the previous winter.

Black Bears

Growing up in the woods of central PA, we are well aware of the local bears’ annual cycle. Catching glimpses of them in the fields and woods during the summer, knowing that they were gorging on food in the fall to build up their fat supplies, thinking of them “sleeping” the winter away, and then seeing that they raided the bird feeders in early spring when they are starving for food and in need of an easy meal. The bears typically hibernate for 3-5 months, and during this time they don’t eat, drink, urinate, or defecate.

The black bear’s method of hibernation is atypical in that they do not lower their body temperature as far as many other mammals, but they are still able to lower their metabolic rate by up to 75%. Their heart rate can fall from an average of 40-50 beats per minute down to 8! Because their body temperature doesn’t fall, the bears are able to remain relatively alert and may take advantage of relatively mild winters by leaving their den to forage. The bears may lose 25-40% of their body weight over the winter, using their stored fat to meet their nutrient and water needs, but surprisingly, they do not lose much muscle over this period. Since the bears are not urinating or defecating over the winter, they are able to process the nitrogen in their waste and use it to build lean muscle mass.

During this month or next, pregnant females will give birth to their young. The baby bears weigh less than a pound when born. They won’t open their eyes or begin walking for over another month, and even then they will weigh less than two pounds!

Beavers

Beavers are an example of a mammal that doesn’t migrate or hibernate, instead it remains relatively active and relies on food it stockpiles for the season.

Every fall with the return of frost, beavers begin preparing their dens for winter. They add a fresh coating of mud to their dens. The mud freezes with the colder temperatures, creating a solid barrier against predators. While preparing their dens, they are also gathering sticks and logs for their winter food supply. Beavers are herbivores, feeding off the tender underbark of Aspens, Willow, Birch, and Maple along with other aquatic plants. The beavers are able to leave their dens through underwater openings, giving them access to their food supply even when their pond is frozen.

Gray Tree Frog

Unlike the bears and beavers we’ve mentioned, many frogs have a very unique method for surviving the winter. The gray tree frog bruminates, which is often called hibernation, but involves different metabolic processes. As cold weather approaches, the frogs burrow under roots and leaves. As the temperatures drop below freezing, ice crystals will form under the frog’s skin, and in their bladder and body cavity, but not in their vital organs! A high concentration of glucose in their organs acts as an antifreeze protecting them until spring. When frozen, the frogs will also stop breathing and their heart will stop beating. Once the warmer temperatures of spring arrive, their bodies will thaw and their organs will begin functioning again. {amaze.balls.}

Sky

The January skies are quiet! We’re posting this so late in the month that we’ve already missed the Quadrantids Meteor Shower on the 3rd and 4th as well as the full moon on the 5th. But hey, there’s a new moon coming up on January 20th, and the dark skies will be a great time to bundle up and do some winter stargazing.

Fun Fact : many moons ago (heehee), we talked about the names given to the full moons. While researching today’s post, we learned about another name for the January full moon ~ the Bear Moon, because this is often the month when the hibernating bears give birth.

Fields and Festivals

While many farmers’ fields may be For us it’s going to be a month of eating like the beavers; digging into the potatoes, squash, and other hardy winter veggies that we’ve stockpiled from our farmshare. I’m sure there will be many soups, but Sarah just gave me the cookbook Plenty for Christmas, so I’m excited to do some experimenting with our vegetable dishes. I’m also armed with a new pressure cooker and our pantry full of dried beans, because, you know, they’re good for your heart. On the fruit front, we’ll still be eating piles of oranges and indulging in the final weeks of pomegranate season!

It seems like the whole world slows down in January. We didn’t see any amazing festivals or holidays on the horizon, but maybe we’re missing something? Do you know of any?

We’re planning on indulging in the quiet darkness of this month. Spending plenty of evenings in front of the fire, catching up on our reading, and planning for the coming year. We hope this month affords you the same mellow moments.

Black bear in grass found here. Black bear and cub found here.
Beaver lodge found here. Adult beaver found here.
Frozen tree frog image found here.
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