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December’s sky offers rewards for those willing to brave the elements

The sun sets this week a little before 4:45, and as the sky darkens, Jupiter appears high in the south-southeast. Aside from the moon at this time, Jupiter is one of the brightest objects in the heavens until setting due west at midnight. The planet stands out all the more amid the dim water constellations Aquarius, Capricornus, Pisces and Pisces Austrinus, which holds the nearest bright star, Fomalhaut. On Monday, look for Jupiter less than seven degrees below the first-quarter moon.

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Put out bulbs and bring in geranium cuttings

 

Plant spring bulbs now before the ground freezes

To help your tulip bulbs produce large flowers for several years, dig the planting holes at least eight inches deep so that the top of the bulbs are no less that six inches below ground. Plant in well-drained soils amended with at least one-third compost by volume. 

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The sound and sight of Canada geese overhead

 

Is there a more iconic figure from nature to represent the state of Maryland than the Canada goose? Resplendent as our state bird, the Baltimore oriole, is, it is seldom heard and rarely seen by the majority of Free Staters. The great blue heron and osprey are contenders, and I would also nominate the canvasback. But let’s stick with the goose.

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Adrenaline warms up the last days of rockfishing

 

The chill was familiar for this time of year, damp and penetrating. A soft gloom had settled over the water with the arrival of some heavy cloud cover, and I noticed that the tidal current running against a fresh wind had just added an eager chop to the mix.

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It’s not for lack of light that we cannot see the new moon

 

The moon wanes thru week’s end, until Sunday, December 5, when the new moon passes directly between the sun and the earth, disappearing from view.

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See if you can spot the five naked-eye planets

Sunset reveals Jupiter high in the south, shining far brighter than any other object. The king of planets is truly massive — more than twice as large as all the other planets combined. That’s a lot of reflective surface, which makes up for its distance from the sun. While more than three times as far from the sun as its inner neighbor Mars, Jupiter is second in brightness only to Venus....

What do we save and what do we sacrifice?

Saving the Last Farm on the Magothy, my November 4 column, brought lots of interesting mail that sent me down a broader path through the Preservation Woods.

Lucy Illif, who owns one of the few remaining farms in Arnold, reminded me that the Jordan Property next to Ritchie Highway has just been rezoned commercial and that the whole area is being swallowed up by houses and shopping malls.

“Will our farm now be the last one in Arnold?” she wondered.

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Composting returns all those nutrients to the garden

The soil in my first garden at Upakrik Farm in 1991 was mostly hard clods of silt. Because I have added liberal amounts of compost over the past 19 years, my soil is now loose, friable and highly productive. I attribute the change entirely to the use of compost.

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Big rockfish make foul-weather fishing worth while

Getting in on the early-winter rockfish bite can be quite unpleasant. Except for the lucky anglers with big, enclosed boats that can safely and comfortably ply our cold, windswept Bay, most anglers this time of year must simply deal with November’s increasingly nasty weather. 

 

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Annapolis is a good place to start

I can still hear my mom’s voice: Go outside and play, but be back for dinner. The street where I grew up was surrounded by woods. A dirt trail — a remnant of a 10-mile, horse-drawn, streetcar track — cut through the woods and gave me hours of outdoor magical fun.

I was a free-range kid. Chances are if you are over 50, you were too.

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