Forget January 1st as the first day of the new year. Pope Gregory set that day in the 1750s when he instituted his calendar. This hearkens back to ancient Roman custom, since that was the day ancient Roman officials began their terms of office. However, the traditional day for celebrating the new year in Europe prior to Gregory was March 25th. Much more grounded in the northern hemisphere's reality, if you ask me. And there are so many other customs: for pagans, for example, the new year begins with the close of harvest in the fall, which also makes a certain nature-based sense.
The real new year comes on gradually. You can't mark it by saying one particular minute begins the new year or new season. The real new year begins now in northern Illinois, when the buds are swelling and there's a touch of green among the brown of last year's growth. When the sandhill cranes head north, and the chickadees begin their mating flights, it's time to cut down the old brown, rattling stalks to chop up for compost, and nearly time to start seeds indoors. Happy new year!
Here are my spring resolutions (besides putting in more native plants, which is not a resolution, but an established habit):
- To rejuvenate my own small polyculture lawn
- To figure out what to plant in the parkway now that I've smothered the grass
- To get the raised beds I'm planning built and prepared before the seeds I'm starting are ready to put in
- To persuade a friend who has spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) in his yard to dig some up and give them to me, since I can't find them in the nursery trade
- To do a better job of entering my citizen science data at NPN (See my post about phenophases, or go straight to the National Phenology Network for more info)
- To educate others in my neighborhood about the value of native pollinator-attracting plants, and persuade them to plant some this year
Note: Learn more about sandhill cranes at the International Crane Foundation Website. Here is a You Tube video of cranes leaving their winter home in Gainesville, Florida for the trek north to Wisconsin.
Update: Apparently there are now breeding pairs in Illinois. See Dennis Cudworth's article, "Sandhill Cranes Return to Illinois in Spring"
Do Your Backyard Plants and Animals Display Phenophases?