Tag Archives: Moon Phases

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Slow Nature: Keep a Moon Diary

The changing moon is a source of fascination for people of all ages.

Scientists, from ancient Babylonia to modern countries around the world, have attempted to explore it. Ancient people used the full moons to determine their calendars, and Native Americans named the full moons according to the activities that took place under them, such as harvesting and the first shoots of corn. The moon’s pull is tied to our tides and even our bodies. Many migratory animals are guided by the moon.

Why not make your own moon explorations and observations by keeping a moon diary?

Taking note of the moon’s phases and rhythms, as it moves through its cycle, is a great way to feel the rhythms of our lives and of nature. It can help younger children understand how long a month is. Of course, everyone has fun searching for the “Man in the Moon”. Look outside during the next full moon to try to find him.

You’ll need:

A blank calendar or pencil and paper
A view of the moon

Look at the moon each night after it has risen and record its phase, in writing or drawing, as it makes its monthly rotation around the earth. The amount of moon we see is really the amount of sunlight that is reflected on it during each phase. New moons are between the earth and the sun, so that the sun almost entirely shines on the part of the moon we don’t see. Full moons are on the side of the earth opposite the sun, so that sunlight shines on them in full. The moon always follow this pattern:

  • New
  • Waxing crescent
  • First quarter
  • Waxing gibbous
  • Full
  • Waning gibbous
  • Third quarter
  • Waning crescent
  • New

Here are some more fun activities to try:

Photo: NASA

Celebrate May’s Full Moon

Gaisberg_and_rising_full_moon

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, today is the night and day of May’s full moon. The May Moon is known as the Full Flower Moon, in the moon naming tradition that was used by the Native Americans, largely Algonquins, who lived in the Northeast U.S., from New England to Lake Superior in the Midwest.

The Full Flower Moon received its name because of the abundant flowers that carpeted the land during its time. It’s also been called the Full Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon.

I’ve long been quite entranced with the full moon names and their variations. Of course, they reflect both the need to mark passing time and the way that time was experienced by people who were living close to the land. Lunar time-keeping pre-dated our modern calendars (and some calendars, like the Jewish and Chinese calendars, are still lunar-based.) The Farmer’s Almanac has a good list of Native American full moon names and how each came to be.

Other, even older, cultures have had moon naming traditions, too. This site lists full moon names from Chinese, Celtic, Pacific Island, Native American, Pagan, and other cultures.

Lots of people garden using the phases of the moon. The good news is that there isn’t one best time to plant — Each aspect of planting has an associated moon phase, based on how much moisture is pulled up through the soil by the monthly pull of the moon (much the way the moon influences the tides.)

The time just after the full moon is an especially good time for planting root crops, as the gravitational pull is high (adding more moisture to the soil) and the moonlight is decreasing, contributing energy to the roots. For this reason, the waning moon is also a good time to plant bulbs and transplants.

One great moon is known to all farmers, late September or early October’s Harvest Moon (also known as the Blood Moon, Blackberry Moon, or Hunter’s Moon), which traditionally shines its all-night beacon to help farmers gather their crops. In the Northern Hemisphere, it happens to be an especially close, bright moon, in addition to sometimes lighting up the sky for days. I wrote about the Harvest Moon here.

The Farmer’s Almanac offers a wonderful moon phase calendar for the U.S. that allows you to plug in your location and get the exact time of your local full moon.

Enjoy the Full Flower Moon!

Photo: Matthias Kobel

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