Natural calendar/almanac in May issue of Sonoma magazine

Sonoma mag's event calendar has been wiped clean by the shutdown, so they asked me to write a "natural" calendar instead -- sort of like a traditional almanac, covering events and changes happening to plants, animals, and the planets during the months of May and June. It was a lot of fun to research and write.
As usual I can't post an URL here, since the magazine doesn't have an online version (just an unwieldy flipping book).
Since it's short I've just pasted it below.



Nature almanac

By Nate Seltenrich

Before smartphones and even calendars, people told time by the sun and
the moon, the plants and the animals. Nowadays these natural rhythms continue,
thrumming along above our heads and beneath our feet. Take comfort in knowing that
while we can't get out in the ways we might have before, nature continues to find a way.

Early May
Spring came early this year — at least
that’s how it felt in February — so perhaps the peppers,
tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons are already in the
ground. But for those who’ve yet to plant their shishitos
and Sweet 100s, now is not too late.

Bud break in March, dictated by temperature,
starts a grapevine’s annual growth cycle. Flowering,
the second phase, follows a couple months later. It’s
a critical time in the vineyards, a narrow window when
minor changes in the weather can have major consequences
for the quality of the future harvest.

Another thing it’s not too late for: wildflowers.
The vast Sonoma County bloom, from the bluffs to
the Mayacamas, begins in January and lingers through
June. Then baby blue eyes, white brodiaea, and red larkspur
yield to green grasses that soon turn gold.

It’s upwelling season in California, when
coastal winds blowing from north to south push surface
waters offshore. Cold, nutrient-rich water from deep
below is drawn upward, fueling seaweed growth and
phytoplankton blooms that in turn feed fish, seabirds,
and marine mammals.

California and rough-skinned newts
throughout Sonoma County migrate every winter from
their woodland hideouts to the lake, pond, or creek in
which they were born — and the cycle begins anew.
During late spring and early summer, larvae bulk up for
the big metamorphosis: land, ho!

Late May-Early June
Eater of trees, target of
hunters, bane of nighttime drivers on country roads: the
black-tailed deer is many things. It’s also a wild animal
whose range runs the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Central
California. Females give birth to one or two fawns in
late spring, after a seven-month gestation.

June 4
You’ve seen Venus, you’ve seen Mars, but
Mercury? This innermost planet, typically obscured
from view, reaches one of its highest points above the
horizon today. Look for it just after sunset, low in the
western sky, as shiny as the tenth-brightest star.

June 5-8
The highest and lowest tides arrive every
two weeks with new and full moons. These are called
spring tides, regardless of the season. Following June’s
Strawberry Full Moon, early-morning tides along the
Sonoma Coast will recede particularly far, exposing
hidden anemones, crabs, seaweed, and, for the lucky,
sea stars.

June 20
As surely as the sun rises each morning, it
hits its highest point in the sky on Saturday, June 20, at
2:43 p.m. “Solstice” comes from the Latin for “sun-stopping,”
because the star’s daily travel across our horizon
seems to stop and reverse direction.

Late June
The California buckeye is one with its
environment, and one step ahead of other trees. Deepgreen
leaves burst with mid-winter warmth, while other
branches remain bare. In late June, water already scarce,
its leaves may be yellowing, shriveling, falling. But do
not pity it; admire its timing.