Nature Notebook, September 24, 2020


With the equinox passed this week, the celestial calendar will bring us the harvest moon, the full moon closest to the equinox, on Friday, Oct. 2. Traditionally, this moon provided extra light for crops to be brought in before winter. It will be joined by a second full moon on Halloween, the hunters moon, thus making it a “blue moon” month. The moon will not look blue; the unusual event of having two full moons in a calendar month gave rise to the phrase “once in a blue moon,” or a rare occurrence.  The hunters moon, similar to the harvest moon, is so named for giving hunters extra light to bring in more meat for the winter.

Coastal buckeyes are catching up with inland buckeyes, called “unu” in Coast Miwok. Look for bare trees with green pods which will split open and drop a large seed. Traditionally, the golden-brown seeds might be pit-roasted then mashed and leached for food. These seeds were also used as fish poison, mashed and dropped into creeks, where the pulp would stupefy fish, causing them to float to the surface of the water where they could be scooped up. You may also see California bay laurel trees covered with egg-shaped eggplant-purple seeds; peel away the soft purple shell to find a ripe bay nut, “sotok” in Coast Miwok. The nuts were shelled and crushed before being formed into cakes used as a winter food.