January/February 2015



January/February 2015
Jan./Feb. 2015
Vol. 37 Issue 1
A Dahlem Conservancy Publication for
The John and Mary Dahlem Environmental Education Center
Photo credit: Dr. Paul Curtis, DNR
The Call of the Coyote
There are few things as equally hairraising and awe-inspiring as a chorus of
coyote calls. My first experiences with
these were of the hair-raising variety
when I worked at a summer camp in
Lake Placid, NY for three years right
out of high school. We spent the summer living in canvas tents that were
draped over wooden platforms. At night
we could see the campfire reflected in
the eyes of the “coydogs” that lurked
in the trees between the junior and
senior camps. And then we would hear
the howls…no, the wails…no, the…
the… Words fail to describe the sound
these animals make when they all sing
together, but it was enough to make me
wish that we had a lot more between us
than a flimsy canvas wall.
These days I find myself enthralled by
the coyote chorus that drifts through
my bedroom windows at night. I enjoy
lying there listening to their music.
However, there were times when I was
by: Ellen Rathbone, Education Director
out walking the dog and hearing the
coyotes would give me pause. Like the
evening (it was still light out) a few
years ago when the dog and I were
headed back toward home and ran into
a Wall of Sound. It was as though hundreds of coyotes had made a road block
just around the bend in the road. I was
fully convinced that we were about to
see dozens of wild canines at any moment. I should’ve taken better note of
my dog’s reaction, which was nil. Sound
travels well in the cooler, damper air of
evening; those animals, which sounded
so close, were obviously further away
than my imagination placed them.
Back east, where I’m from, we have the
eastern coyote, but here in Michigan, it
is still the western (or original) variety.
The history of the eastern coyote seems
to be shrouded in mystery. Where did it
come from and how did it get here? A
hundred years ago, there were no coyotes in the northeastern U.S. A hundred
and fifty years ago the region still had
wolves. Foxes were the only other wild
canid. So where did the eastern coyote
come from?
The basic theory is that the western
coyote moved eastward. First it came
to the plains and made a pretty good
life for itself there. The plains coyotes,
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sometimes called brush wolves, were
occasionally adopted by native people to
work as beasts of burden. Because coyotes never really specialized, like wolves
or foxes, they remained quite flexible
in their behaviors, a trait that makes
them highly adaptable to a wide range
of habitats. It also makes them prolific
breeders. As their population expanded,
so did their range.
Evidence suggests that when the coyotes
crossed the Mississippi River, some went
northward into Canada, circumventing
the Great Lakes, while others headed
east and south. The frontrunners found
themselves in new territory that had
no other coyotes around with which to
mate. Most animals mate exclusively
with their own kind, but canines seem
to be an exception to this rule, and
those early coyotes found nothing to
mate with but wolves. The influx of
wolf genes helped create animals that
are larger than the originals and that
started to show some of the social structure found in wolf packs.
So what about coydogs? Never heard of
them? A coydog is a fictitious animal
resulting from breeding between a coyote and a domestic dog. Back east just
about everyone has heard of coydogs,
and to this day, children and adults alike
(continued on pg. 3)
Trail Hours
Trails and grounds are open
daily dawn to dusk.
The entrance gate opens
at 6:30 AM and closes
at 9:00 PM
7117 S. Jackson Rd.
Jackson, MI 49201
Phone: 517-782-3453
Fax: 517-782-3441
Page 2
Message from the Director
PawPrints is published for members of
The Dahlem Conservancy
Rod Malloy
The Dahlem Conservancy
Board of Directors
President: Rod Melling
President Elect: Linda Brian
Treasurer: Gary Krupa
Secretary: Beckie Shotwell
I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts with the Dahlem
members, friends and guests who pick up the PawPrints newsletter
and read every word. I have enjoyed meeting many of you and sharing my growing passions for all the natural wonders at Dahlem – local ecological history, migrating birds and butterflies, resident mammals, snakes, frogs, turtles, wildflowers, mushrooms and my favorite
biology subject of 2014 - iridescent dragonflies and damsel flies.
Jackie DiGiovanni
Patricia Huebner
John McLaughlin
Becky Mehall
Kevin Rogers
Andy Walz
Sam Barnes - JC Representative
The Dahlem Conservancy Staff
Full-time Staff
Executive Director: Rod Malloy
Education Director: Ellen Rathbone
Development Director: Brenda Pilgrim
Little Acorns Instructor: Becky Schweizer
Facilities Coordinator/Weekend Manager:
Mark Snedeker
Part-time Staff
Office Coordinator: Denise Bigham
Receptionist: Linda Danley
Naturalist: Carrie Benham
Naturalist/Stewardship Coordinator:
Gary Siegrist
Ecology Farm Coordinator: Gary Siegrist
Little Acorns Assistant: Marie Page
Maintenance Assistant: Mark Blackmun
Experience WORKS Training Program
Administrative Assistant: Holly Flack
The Dahlem Conservancy’s
mission is to provide
environmental education &
land conservancy services to
the residents of
south central Michigan.
Has Dahlem touched your life in any significant
PawPrints is one of the key elements of Dahlem membership.
Dahlem members support and sustain the day-to-day operations
producing 365 days of nature experiences on our 280+ acres of conserved land. Every day people of all ages are reconnected to nature
by attending an environmental education program, by walking our
trails, by shopping at the Nutshell Gift Shop or simply watching our
resident turtles while waiting for a sibling to get out of Little Acorns
As of January 1, 2015, we have set new Dahlem membership privileges: facility and grounds rental, community garden plot rental, early
registration in high-volume programs and cross country skiing. These
are in addition to the newsletter subscription, 10% discount in Nutshell Gift Shop, outdoor adventure camp discount, reduced cost of
programs, and partner nature center admission. I have taken advantage of the free or reduced admission to 142 nature centers nationwide at a handful of eastern United States nature centers in 2014.
With these improved benefits and privileges, we have restructured
the membership levels, also effective January 1st. Individual memberships, for one person at any age, are now $35 per year; Family
memberships (residing at one address, parent(s) or guardian(s) with
children; includes grandparents and minor grandchildren) are $45
per year; Senior and Student individual memberships (age 62+ or
student with school ID) are $20 per year; and a new Trail Sponsor
membership, for people whose enjoyment of Dahlem is limited to
enjoying walking or skiing our trails in all four seasons, is $20.
With this new membership matrix, we can maintain free access to
Dahlem for all people. Thank you for your membership and for your
support of Dahlem year-round. Happy Holidays & Happy New
January/February 2015
(Coyotes, continued from pg. 1)
talk about the coydogs they’ve seen. If you try to tell them
that coydogs don’t exist, you’d best be prepared for a heated
discussion, for they will not give up that notion. “My dad said
that’s what it is” is a very difficult argument to refute. The first
reported coyote-dog hybrid was in 1885, but whether this was
scientific fact or anecdotal is conjecture. The first successful
captive breeding of a coyote and dog was in 1937 and all the
pups died. Captive breeding programs over the years demonstrated that coyote-dog hybrids end up with skewed breeding
cycles, which result in pups being born early in the year when
it is still quite cold and food supplies are low; most do not
survive. Today eastern coyotes can certainly find plenty of other
coyotes with which to mate, so there is no reason for them to
set up housekeeping with feral dogs. Therefore, the likelihood
of finding genuine coydogs in the 21st century is slim at best.
In 2000 I visited western Canada, where I saw my first western coyote. I was stunned at the small size of the animal (I
was used to the much larger eastern coyote). Why, it seemed
almost fox-like by comparison! Since moving to Michigan, I
learned that the coyotes here are all of the western variety. And
out in the country where I live, they are quite numerous. Yearround I hear their calls - those eerie yips and choruses that drift
through the still night air. Sometimes they come right close to
the house. It is the call of the wild, and lets us know that there
is still some wildness out on our mostly tamed landscape.
Do we need to fear the coyote? Not really...unless one is a
house cat or a small dog (keep your pets indoors, folks). That
said, there have been, over the last few years, some isolated
cases of coyotes attacking people: one noted case in Nova Scotia, and another in California. Most encounters where a coyote
attacked, the people were not seriously hurt, but there have
been two recorded attacks that resulted in fatalities.
The thing to remember is that, yes, these are predators, but
they are also dogs. As such, they exhibit the same body language that Fluffy or Fido does. You can read the tension in the
carry of the body - is it stiff or loose? A tense animal whose
commissures (corners of the lips/mouth) are pushed forward is
an animal that is on the offensive - it is more likely to attack.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times, and learn how to
read animals’ body language - it will serve you well. And keep
in mind that any animal that is cornered or feels threatened is
likely to attack, be it a mouse, a squirrel or a coyote.
Coyotes are amazing animals. We need to remember that we
have moved into their territory, and now they are moving into
ours (urban coyotes). They are prolific breeders and readily
adapt to new situations. And they sing ... to let others know
where they are and how they are doing. Getting to know your
local wildlife helps take away the fear, and a little appreciation
goes a long way.
Page 3
Stewardship Update
While we often have several on-going stewardship projects
taking place simultaneously here at Dahlem, our big project for 2014 was the Joint Venture Grant that we had with
the River Raisin Cluster of the Stewardship Network. This
15-month project included work done at Dahlem, YMCA
Camp Storer, and Iron Creek Properties. The original plan
was to enhance 98 acres of wetland and upland habitat to
benefit migratory birds, and in the end over 137 acres were
managed, exceeding all expectations.
Dahlem’s portion of this project was a 17.1 acre parcel near
the northern portion of our property. Just south of the
cornfield that borders Wickwire Road and the Jackson College Presdient’s House, this parcel included mostly overgrown field and a portion of woods.
Most of Dahlem’s property was farmland through the mid1900s. Up until recently, it was allowed to follow “natural
regeneration,” meaning little was done to manage the landscape. In 2008 we started to implement a land management
scheme, working to restore native plants to the landscape
with the ultimate goal of re-establishing original habitats
(e.g., black oak savanna).
Dahlem’s vision, of which this 17.1 acre parcel is a piece, is
to establish a contiguous strip of grassland/savanna habitat
from the north side of our property to the southern boundary (along Kimmel Road). This would result in prime
habitat for grassland species such as Henslow’s sparrows and
bobolinks, both of which are suffering serious population
For the Joint Venture Grant, work began on the 17.1 acre
parcel last winter, with invasive species removal (buckthorn,
autumn olive, and honeysuckle). This was followed up
with a prescribed burn in the spring, which released a lot
of native seeds from the seedbank - we were stunned by
what bloomed there last summer, including quite a lot of
ironweed and butterflyweed. Last fall volunteers returned
to plant many native plants in the parcel, including monkeyflower, virgin’s bower, and rattlesnake master. Only a few
ground bee nests were disturbed in the process.
Will this patch of restored habitat succeed in bringing back
birds? Ask the Brewer’s warbler who showed up this summer...we think the answer will be “Yes!”
Page 4
January/February Public Programs
Program Codes:
Adult - (A)
Sunday Travel Series (A)
On select Sundays throughout January and February, we are
offering a series of travel adventures to ward off your cabin
fever. Come on out and learn about some of the places our
friends and members have visited. Fee: members free; nonmembers $3.
• The Wildlife of East Africa
January 4
2:00 PM
Dick and Abby Mortenson share their experiences from a
two-week safari they took to Tanzania and Kenya in
September 2013. Traveling with only two other people
and superb guides, they encountered a dazzling array of
animals and birds, witnessed the migration of wildebeests
and zebras across the Mara River in the Serengeti, and
visited the villages of the Maasi and Samburu people.
• Adirondack Adventures
January 25
2:00 PM
In 2014 Dahlem led an eco-tour to the mountains of
northern New York, where participants visited rare ecosystems, sought rare birds, and took in some of the
history of the region. Education Director Ellen
Rathbone shares the adventure during this photographic
• Natural Michigan
February 8
2:00 PM
Join nature photographer Robert Domm on a photographic tour of the natural wonders of the Mitten State.
Copies of his stunning books will be available for
purchase and signing.
• Natural Jackson
February 22
2:00 PM
Over the years Andy Walz has photographed various parks
and natural areas in Jackson County. This program will
show the natural beauty of these areas at times and in
ways that most Jacksonians probably have not seen them.
The Dahlem Center is proud to announce that these programs
are sponsored by a generous grant from
Child - (C)
Retro Nature Movie Sundays (A) (F)
On select Sundays throughout January and February, we are
showing several movies from the Berlet Nature Movie Collection. These films, made right here in Jackson, were once THE
educational nature films shown in schools and at Audubon
clubs across the country. Come enjoy popcorn and a movie
with us! Fee: members free; non-members $3.
Seasons Across North America
January 18
2:00 PM
Enjoy three 20-minute movies about the seasons of three
different habitats: the desert, the prairie and the
Wild Animals of Michigan
February 1
2:00 PM
Three 20-minute movies feature some of the charismatic
animals that call Michigan home: black bears, sandhill
cranes, and owls.
Wonderful Wetlands
February 15
2:00 PM
We’ve selected three 20-minute movies to showcase one
of our most vital habitats: wetlands. Learn what makes
these places special to people as well as wildlife.
• Alaska Revisited
January 11
2:00 PM
Myrna Berlet-Dietrich shares her adventures in Alaska
with us through stunning photography and stories. Not
to be missed!
Family - (F)
Moonlight X-Country Skiing (A) (F)
Saturday, January 3
7:00 - 9:00 PM
Join skiing enthusiast Jim Seitz for a moonlit ski around
Dahlem’s trails. Afterwards, enjoy a warm dessert at our
campfire - a Dutch oven treat made by Jim just for you!
Fee: $5/member; $10/non-member. Pre-registration
required by 1/2.
Introduction to Keeping Bees (A)
Saturday, January 10
10:00 AM
Dahlem’s bee keepers, Ben Schlenker and Konnie Hanson, are
leading this introductory class about bee keeping. Designed
for novices, this class covers equipment needed, hive placement, checking with local codes, various types of hives and
expectations of the beekeeper. Fee: FREE
Winter Exploration (C 8-11 yrs)
Saturday, January 17
1:00 PM
Children ages 8 to 11 years are invited to join us for an afternoon of wintery adventure as we explore Dahlem’s trails. Fee:
$3/member; $5/non-member. Pre-register by 1/16.
Page 5
January/February 2015
January/February Public Programs (continued)
Program Codes:
Adult - (A)
The Wonderful World of Bats (F) (A) (C)
Saturday, January 24
2:00 PM
Winter is a great time to learn about bats! The Organization
for Bat Conservation will be here at Dahlem with live bats!
Come learn about what makes these mammals so special, and
why each of us should do our best to help protect Michigan’s
bats. Fee: $3/member; $5/non-member.
Drum-making Workshop (A)
Saturday, January 31
10:00 AM
Drum-making is an ancient art that honors the animals whose
hides are used for the drum head and the trees whose wood is
used to make the frame. Today drumming has become very
popular in helping people reconnect with nature and spirit. In
this workshop you will make your own 15” drum and drumstick to take home. No previous skills are required. Registration is due by January 3 so we can place the order for
materials. When you register, indicate your preference for
elk or horse. Fee: $100/member; $130/non-member for
elk; $90/member, $120/non-member for horse. Payment is
due upon registration. Class is limited to eight participants.
Life Lessons Taught by Bees (A)
Saturday, February 7
2:00 PM
Gold can be found even on the darkest of days, sometimes
in the form of honey. Against the backdrop of an entertaining story, bee enthusiast Charlotte Hubbard shares how she
fell head-over-hive tool in love with bees, and offers helpful
insights and lessons on handling bees, and life’s challenges.
Fee: $3/member; $5/non-member.
Moonlight X-Country Skiing (A) (F)
Saturday, February 7
7:00 - 9:00 PM
Join skiing enthusiast Jim Seitz for a moonlit ski around
Dahlem’s trails. Afterwards, enjoy a warm dessert at our
campfire - a Dutch oven treat made by Jim just for you!
Fee: $5/member; $10/non-member. Pre-registration
required by 2/6.
Winter Bird Banding (A) (F)
Saturday, February 14
9:00 AM
Can you think of a more perfect way to spend a wintery
morning than coming out to Dahlem for bird banding? Join
Allen Chartier and Dahlem’s staff as we mist-net birds at our
bird feeding station, bring them indoors for banding (and real
up-close looks), and release them back outside. This is your
chance to have the proverbial bird in your hand! Program
begins with a Power-Point presentation. Fee: $3/member;
$5/non-member. Rain date: February 28.
Family - (F)
Child - (C)
Ornithology 101 (A)
Saturdays, Feb. 14, 21, 28
10:00 AM - Noon
Saturdays, Mar. 7, 14, 21
Are you looking for something a little more in-depth to
help you with your study of birds? Gary Siegrist leads this
six-week course in bird biology and ID. You will learn terminology, physiology and much, much more. Fee: $100/
member; $150/non-member.
The Coyotes of Southeastern Michigan (A) (F)
Saturday, February 21
2:00 PM
Join Bill Dodge, Wayne State University PhD candidate and
head researcher with the Southeastern Michigan Coyote Research Project (SEMCRP), for an afternoon to learn about
the coyotes that live in our area. Coyotes are important
predators that are often misunderstood and as a result come
into conflict with people. The program includes hands-on
artifacts from Bill’s research Fee: $5/member; $8/nonmember. Not for young children.
Three Cheers for Volunteers!
If you have ever wondered just how important our
volunteers are to us here at Dahlem, let us give you a
couple examples.
For our annual Goblin Walks this last fall, volunteers
donated nearly 600 hours! That’s a whole lot of
man-, woman- and child-power!
Our Cut-n-Dab Society put in nearly 700 hours in
2014. That’s a lot of invasive species removal, planting, digging, and, in general, hard labor!
In 2014, our volunteer trail leaders, those intrepid
souls who, sometimes at the last minute, come out to
share their knowledge and love of nature with school
groups, put in 351 hours.
If you would like to donate your time to an organization that knows and appreciates the value of your
time, please consider joining the Dahlem Volunteer
Corps! We would love to have you.
Our volunteers are what make us successful!
Page 6
Outdoor Kids by: Becky Schweizer, Little Acorns Instructor
[This year we are going to try something new here in
PawPrints: a series of articles that will encourage parents
and granparents to take the children in their lives outside
to explore and experience nature. Written by our Nature
Preschool Instructor, you know they will be full of good educational qualities, as well as helping your (grand)children
connect with nature. - Editor]
Children are naturally curious about the world around
them. They want to explore it, touch it, smell it, taste it.
And we should do everything we can to encourage them
to do so!
A great way to introduce your child to the natural world
is to have him use his senses of touch and hearing. Start
by taking your child on a walk around your yard. Have
him bring a bag along for collecting items, and paper
and crayons for drawing pictures. Challenge him to
find items that are smooth, bumpy, soft and hard. As
he finds each item, ask him what it is and then have him
put it in the bag.
Tuppence a Bag
It was quite a blow to the local community when
Howard’s Feed Store closed its doors for the last time on
Halloween 2014. Where would people go for affordable
bird seed, pet food, and spring chicks?
While Dahlem cannot completely fill the massive void
made by Howard’s closing, we can help in one area:
bird seed!
For many years Dahlem has sold quality birdseed to our
members and non-members alike. Our seed products
• Supreme Mix (20# - $11.50; 40# - $23)
• Wild Finch Mix (10# - $10; 20# - $20)
• Black Oil Sunflower Seed (25# - $11.50; 50# - $23)
• Thistle or Nyjer (gallon - $4.25; 50# - $42.50)
• Suet Cakes ($1.25)
New this year:
• Peanuts splits (10# - $12)
• Sunflower seed hearts (10# - $13.50)
Next challenge him
to find a favorite
spot in the yard...a
spot he will want
to visit every day.
Have him sit down
and listen. When
he hears a sound, ask him what he thinks it is and what
it may look like. Finally, have your child draw a picture
of his favorite nature item he found or heard in your
These simple activities, which are perfect for three- to
five-year-olds, can also be done by older children, and
even adults. This is especially true of the “sit spot” - a
favorite location that you can visit every day. Spend at
least 20 minutes there and just observe what happens
around you. As time goes on, and the seasons change,
you will be amazed at the details you begin to notice.
It’s never too late to get to know nature, but why wait?
And our bird offerings don’t end
there! You can also purchase a
variety of bird feeders, bird baths
(including heated), and nesting
platforms and boxes.
Worried that a 50-pound bag is
too heavy to carry all the way to
your car? No sweat - we will
load your seed for you from
our stockpile in the garage.
And new this winter, we are going to try a birdseed delivery service. If you place your order for 50 pounds or
more of any of our seeds, we will deliver it to your house
for a $5 delivery charge. Delivery limited to residences
within ten miles of Dahlem.
So spread the word: Dahlem is the place for all your
bird feeding needs. AND - you will find our knowledgeable staff can help you choose the right food and feeders
for your yard, as well as help you and your family learn
more about the birds that visit your feeders. Dahlem we are your one-stop-shop for all things bird.
January/February 2015
Frozen Soil—What Now?
by Pegg Clevenger, Community Gardens
Communications Coordinator
Organic gardening is a big part of my life year-round. My
fellow Dahlem Community Gardeners determined I had
gone “over-the-top” when I showed up at a gardeners’ potluck with a graph-paper diagram of my 20’ x 20’ plot.
I realized when I pulled the last hidden Cippolini sweet
onion with its dated plant label from my Dahlem garden that I am indeed obsessed with growing vegetables.
I planted the onion seed indoors exactly seven months
before the day of that harvest. For more than a half-year,
my days were filled with planning, planting, reading and
research as well as tending the green miracles that burst out
of each seed.
“Mother Earth News” provides me a way to enjoy gardening during dormancy. They’ve published the results of a
gardener survey of the Top 15 Vegetable Seed companies.
Looking at these best-rated seed company websites and
vibrant catalogues makes spring feel nearer.
From Renee’s Garden Seeds (reneesgarden.com), how
about trying a gourmet carrot exclusive called “Round
Romeo?” It’s described as “Petite ball-shaped with smooth
Maple Sugaring Program
Volunteers Needed!
Page 7
skin that needs no peeling, sweet flavor and crunchy texture.”
Checking out Cook’s Garden (cooksgarden.com) you can
find recipes as well as crops for introducing children to
gardening. “Children are overjoyed to see the results of
their planting and watering, and a child will eat the most
amazing things if she grew them herself.” I also found out I
can cook radishes and cukes!
Radish and Baby Cabbage Salad
Melt 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil in a large skillet over
medium heat.
Add 1 cup sliced radishes and cook, stirring until tender,
about 5 minutes.
Transfer to a bowl.
Add 2 cups baby cabbage to the skillet and cook, stirring
until wilted, about 3 minutes.
Stir in 1 cup seeded and cubed cucumbers, a tablespoon of
sesame oil along with a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds.
Return the radishes back to the pan and cook for another 2
minutes over medium heat.
-Ellen Ecker Ogden, author of From the Cook’s Garden
Johnny Seeds (johnnyseeds.com) is popular among
Dahlem Community Gardeners and farm market growers
for its wide variety of organic seed. There’s a chart to compare plants least susceptible to bacterial or fungal diseases.
Heirloom Organics (heirloom-organics.com) provides detailed growing guides. About Swiss chard, I learned to “Cut
plants back to about 3 to 5 inches tall to encourage a flush
of new, tender growth.”
Have you enjoyed helping us teach about
maple sugaring in the past? Maybe you’d like
to try it for the first time? Then think about
becoming a volunteer trail leader for our
sugaring programs throughout the month of
My favorite seed company is Seed Savers Exchange (seedsavers.org) because they are providing a valuable service to
humanity that Dahlem has taught me is significant. They
preserve true-to-type seed from open-pollinated and heirloom vegetable varieties, including plant history. Biodiversity is important.
Training Day: Thursday, Feb. 19
Training Time: 9:00 AM - Noon
“While hybrid seeds have their benefits, choosing openpollinated varieties conserves the genetic diversity of garden
vegetables and prevents the loss of unique varieties in the
face of dwindling agricultural biodiversity.”
Goodies served!
If you are interested, please RSVP to Carrie
by: Feb. 17 (5:00 PM). Call (517-7823453) or email ([email protected]
I buy their tomatoes because they are sturdy and delicious.
The bold and colorful zinnias from Seed Savers Exchange
are superb. Moreover, I feel as good about my contribution
to their mission as I do spending so much time gardening,
living the mission of The Dahlem Conservancy.
Page 8
New Beginnings
by: Ellen Rathbone, Education Director
As I write this, the mid-term
elections have just passed...new
beginnings are already underway.
The clocks have been turned back
to normal time, and noon is once
more when the sun is directly
over head.
Daylight Savings Time has always puzzled me. It was established to help keep children in school when we were more
of an agricultural society, but today the practice seems to be
superfluous - kind of like an appendix.
Once upon a time, our lives were dictated by the seasons - we
were much more dependent on the solar cycles for our survival. Eventually, patterns were noted, calendars were created,
and celebrations and meanings were attached to certain times
of the year.
The earliest records of celebrations for the start of a new year
date back about 4000 years to Babylon. The new year began
at the time of the Vernal Equinox and the celebration lasted
11 days. Later, the ancient Egyptians and Persians celebrated
the new year at the Autumnal Equinox, while for the Greeks
the new year was synonymous with the Winter Solstice.
It wasn’t until 153 BCE that January 1 was declared to be the
start of the new year for the first time. This was in Rome, and
it was a civic decision: that was when the Republic’s highest
ranking officials started their one-year tenure in office. Many,
however, still celebrated in mid-March. When Julius Caesar
changed the calendar in 46 BCE, he made it mandatory that
all within the reach of Rome started the year on Jan. 1.
When the Middle Ages rolled around, much of “civilization”
experienced setbacks. The Catholic Church’s Council of
Tours declared at different times during its reign that the new
year was Dec. 25, March 1, March 25 or even on Easter. All
were based on Christian holidays. I suspect than many of the
common people still celebrated based on the solar cycle.
In 1582 the Gregorian Calendar came into being, and this
one once more declared the beginning of the year to be Jan. 1.
The Catholics followed this, and soon the Protestants did as
well. England didn’t adopt this calendar until 1752, and soon
it was almost universal.
Does Jan. 1 have any significance to natural cycles, lunar or
solar? No - it is more of a civic thing, as it was in the time of
ancient Rome. For me, however, the pull of the seasons has
always made more sense...I kind of like the idea of the new
year beginning as the days grow longer - the Winter Solstice.
However you choose to celebrate, we hope that the coming
year is full of good fortune and positive changes.
Return Service Requested
The Dahlem Conservancy
7117 S. Jackson Rd.
Jackson, MI 49201