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If the world doesn’t end, winter begins

With any luck, Friday, December 21 will not mark the end of the world, but rather the usual beginning of winter for the Northern Hemisphere. The Mayans and their vanished civilization are a true mystery, made all the more poignant by their accomplishments, building great pyramids and devising an elaborate calendar. That calendar, like those of other civilizations throughout history and around the globe, recognizes December 21 as the end of the year — and the beginning of the new....

Christmas, like most holidays, has a lot to do with eating. We have our traditions, family recipes and occasional experiments. For as long as I can remember, my mother’s Christmas morning menu included a delicious egg casserole, sticky buns and fruit salad. The mimosas were reserved for the adults.
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Menhaden gain recognition and protection

Friday, December 14, 2012, is a day that makes a difference. On that day, menhaden — a fish virtually inedible to humans and once numerous but now endangered — gained recognition and protection as a vital component of our complex marine ecosystem.
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This bright flowering holly was first found in a nearby bog

Winterberry shows at its best this season, inviting you to cut it for Christmas decorating. The native deciduous forms of holly grow as shrubs six to eight feet tall. At this time of year, the ends of the branches are filled with clusters of bright red berries.
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An asteroid spawns the Geminids

Thursday’s new moon provides dark cover for this year’s Geminid meteor shower, which peaks that night and into the wee hours Friday. The Geminids are perhaps the best of the annual meteor showers, but because of December’s chill, many people haven’t truly appreciated them.
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The Bay offers good action nearly year-round

Yesterday a cold rain fell for hours. Wind followed. Today came with heavy fog and a chill that banished any thoughts of getting out on the Bay for one last fling at the rockfish. As Jim Morrison phrased it, “This is the end, my friend.”
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These tropical plants demand warmth and sun

A tropical plant that originated in Mexico, the poinsettia is very susceptible to chilling temperatures. If you purchase your plant on a cold day, wrap it completely before moving it from the store to your car. Place it in a sleeve stapled at the top to prevent rapid heat loss and to keep cold air from blowing onto the plant. As soon as you start the car, turn on the heat to a comfortable temperature.
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Three planets and the moon greet the dawn

The waning crescent moon rises around midnight at week’s end and is high in the south come dawn. By the weekend, it rises in the wee hours of the night. Look for it just one degree below blue-white Spica before dawn Sunday. The next morning the moon rises later and is just a few degrees away from golden Saturn. Tuesday it is a thin crescent in the east, just two degrees below Venus.
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Rockfish are biting, and you’ve got until December 15 to catch them

As December opened, we’d dropped anchor off the Hackett’s can in 35 feet of water. I set up the chum bag off our stern and had cut some pieces of fresh alewife, when suddenly everything started going right — and wrong — at the same time.
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Store-bought Christmas wreaths and roping may need resurrection

At a winter Saturday morning farmers market on Riva Road, a shopper approached me with a Christmas wreath problem. In a week on her door, a wreath she had purchased at a local big-box store was turning gray-green, and its needles felt dry.
    I was not surprised.
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