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It’s all how you divide the year

The first week of February marks a seasonal milestone, as the sun hovers midway between its southernmost point above the Tropic of Capricorn on winter solstice and its position above the equator on vernal equinox. If you think of the year as a compass with the equinoxes and solstices the four cardinal points, then this cross-quarter day — one of four — represent the ordinal points, dissecting our seasons.
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Yellow perch are here

Daylight hours have been getting longer, yet most days, temperatures keep us in winter. But the yellow perch know that their springtime is here.
    Moving now into the deeper water of the tributaries, they are forming large schools and staging. Yellow perch are the earliest fish to spawn in the Tidewater, and their run is the first trumpet sounding the Bay’s piscatorial spring.
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Not in natives; Mother Nature knows what she’s doing

Several readers have expressed concern that the warm winter will cause plants to flower and grow. There is no need to worry about native plants in our climate initiating growth or flowering before spring.
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Behind this glowing mass of cosmic gas is a stellar nursery

The waning crescent moon reaches new phase Monday, leaving our night skies free of its overpowering glow. As darkness settles and the stars come into view, the familiar outline of Orion is appears above the southeast horizon.
    Easily the most recognizable constellation, Orion has marched through the heavens and played a role in the mythology of every civilization and culture on earth.
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Some seeds are worth trying; others you should avoid

My 2011 vegetable garden was the most productive I have ever had. Even as I write this column in early January, I am still harvesting kale, collard greens, kohlrabi, cabbage, mustard greens and Brussels sprouts. I also had the best harvest ever of fall peas, snap beans and carrots.
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Eat, drink, see movies and strengthen your skills

Ye gads it’s been a difficult winter!    
    Today it’s bitter cold and windy, and the long-range forecast looks like a lot more of the same, except for the charming likelihood of a few days of freezing rain. With two of my offspring still in college, there is no fiscal possibility of escaping to the tropics.
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Regardless of the time, there’s plenty to see

The waning moon rises before midnight Thursday and Friday, with ruddy Mars just a few degrees above. They are high in the south by 4am and in the southwest at dawn.
    Monday’s last-quarter moon rises after midnight, just a couple degrees below the bright star Spica. Golden Saturn trails a few degrees to the moon’s east, with the three forming a tight triangle.
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How to use seed catalogs to best advantage

The seed catalogs have been coming in the mail since early December; most will have been mailed by mid January. Many of the catalogs offer bonuses if you order early. You can save money by purchasing early, and you are guaranteed against having to accept substitutions.
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Who can resist the water on a mild day?

January’s first Saturday afternoon was a beautiful time to be on the water. It was near 70 degrees, sunny, calm and the incoming tide was making up nicely. Drifting in my small skiff over a shell bottom at the mouth of the Magothy, I threaded a piece of worm on a size-two hook. The upper hook on my top and bottom rig already sported a small, wriggling bull minnow.

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Would you believe it’s our shortest season?

Thursday brings two celestial milestones: it marks the latest sunrise of the year and it marks perihelion, earth’s closest point to the sun.
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