Nature Journaling with Phenology Wheels

Almost a year ago now, I was perusing Instagram when I came upon a photograph of a phenology wheel. It was so beautiful and drew me in instantly. I knew this was something I had to try!

So what is a phenology wheel?

Here’s my first ever wheel, June 2019.

The basic idea is that you are doing daily tracking of the weather and moon cycles then adding observations from nature around the edge. I love that it is a quick creative daily practice that keeps me engaged and observant of what is happening in the world around me.

How to begin

A few days before the month begins, I make my outline. The first time I did this, I looked for bowls of varying sizes to trace because I was in Michigan and didn’t have any drawing tools. The next time, I used a compass and protractor to make the circles and pie slices for each day. Now, I’ve finally made templates out of quilting pattern plastic so it’s super easy; I just trace the pieces and in minutes I have my wheel!

You can google “phenology wheel templates” and find some printable versions to begin with. I like mine to be on multimedia paper so I can use watercolor on it.

What to include in your wheel

When you do your search for templates you’ll see people do phenology wheels in lots of different ways. Some like to do monthly, some daily. Some add color guides for temperatures. One of my favorites on Instagram is a woman making an embroidered monthly phenology wheel. It is so beautifully done!

Here’s what I usually include in mine, from the outermost circle in:

  • Date
  • Moon phase (Farmer’s Almanac site has a nice moon phase calendar to help you figure these out until you begin to learn the cycles)
  • Weather
  • Sunrise
  • Sunset (most weather apps provide sunrise and sunset times)
  • High temperature
  • Low temperature (Timeanddate.com is a nice resource to look up past info if you miss recording a few days)
  • Name of the full moon

I like to draw my rings and wedges in pencil, then trace in a waterproof black drawing pen. Then I fill in the dates, moon phases, and full moon name. Finally, I paint all but the weather sections. So each day, I add the weather, high/low and sunrise/sunset. Then every couple days I usually add something else around the edges that I’ve observed. If it’s the first of something in the season (i.e., I saw my first hummingbird of the year May 1) then I am sure to record that.

If I’m traveling, then I write where I’m at around the edge and fill in observations for that location. Here you can see in July I was in California, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio!

It is fun at the end of each month to look back through and see what trends or patterns arose. March and April were full of birds and flowers as life began to reawaken and return from the winter…

I hope this has inspired you and that maybe you’ll give nature journaling a try too. It always amazes me how much is happening in the world around me when I slow down and pay attention. What a gift we can give ourselves if we build in more space to notice the beauty all around us.

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