|Poor Will’s Almanack
By Bill Felker
February 6-12, 2006
Everything that is in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, is penetrated with connectedness, is penetrated with relatedness.
-Hildegard of Bingen
The astronomical calendar for the third week of late winter:
The Hellebore Moon waxes more and more gibbous through the period, becoming full on Feb. 12 at 11:44 p.m.
Jupiter continues to ride with Libra across the southern tree line this month, rising two hours after midnight. Saturn follows Orion in Cancer. Venus stays in Sagittarius, becoming more visible than it was last month along the southeastern horizon before dawn.
Active from the middle of February through the first week of March, the Delta Leonid meteors peak at the beginning of February’s fourth week. The dark moon at the end of the month should allow some of the shooting stars to be visible, even in a hazy sky.
Feb. 11: As this system moves east, the odds for milder weather become more substantial. By Feb. 14, chances for highs below freezing along the 40th Parallel fall briefly to only 20 percent, and by Feb. 15, chances for spring warmth above 40 degrees jump to 40 percent in most of the country - the highest so far this year. Between Feb. 11 and 15, however, each day carries about a 50 percent chance for rain or snow.
Feb. 15: Although the February 15th high-pressure ridge can be disappointing to those most in need of spring, the aftermath of this cold wave brings increasing odds for the best thaw so far in the year. And as Dec. 15 marks the beginning of the darkest and chilliest portion of the year, Feb. 15 marks the beginning of the end of winter. Across the South, the floral cycle starts near this time, and along the Canadian border, the frequency of highs in the teens or below starts to drop. Since mild winds from the Gulf of Mexico are likely to clash with Arctic air during this period, however, the days between Feb. 14 and 18 bring an increased likelihood of serious storms.
When you see golden aconites and snowdrops emerging from the ground, you know that mallards and Canada geese are looking for nesting sites.
When pussy willows are more than half emerged, maple sap will soon be running. Early bulb season comes with the maple syrup sap as far north as Chicago.
At the same time, woodland salamanders will be laying their eggs throughout the lower Midwest, and azaleas will be in bloom across the South.
When you hear cardinals singing at 7 a.m., prune houseplants then, allowing them to begin fresh growth as the days lengthen.
Cardinal song at 7 a.m. also means that you should pull back the mulch in part of your garden to allow soil to dry out and warm up.
You might also dig horseradish and comfrey root before the weather begins to moderate. And as soon as you can work the soil, plant a few peas, onions, radishes, rutabagas, asparagus crowns, spinach, turnips and carrots on milder afternoons under the dark moon. If they survive, they’ll be the first vegetables in your spring soup.
Cardinals singing at 7 a.m. also tells you to take cuttings to propagate shrubs, trees and houseplants; experiment with forsythia, pussy willow, hydrangea and spirea.
When you see the first red knuckles of rhubarb emerging in your garden, you know only 11 weeks remain before tender vegetables and flowers can be set out in the garden.
Rhubarb also tells you to separate dahlia clumps into single roots and start them for summer in milk cartons or other containers.
Mind and body
The S.A.D. Index, which measures the forces that contribute to seasonal affective disorders on a scale of 1 to 100, rises to 91 on Feb. 12, but this is the last time before next December that the Index climbs so high.
And since middle and late winter bring the most heart attacks, be especially careful to exercise with moderation and keep to your diet.
Best hunting & fishing
Fishing and late-season hunting are favored as the wind blows from the southwest and the barometer drops in advance of the arrival of the Feb. 11 and 15 cold fronts. If possible seek fish and game around midday; the moon will be below the Earth at that time, encouraging all creatures (including you) to feed and to be more active.
A Memory Story by Susan Perkins, Hardtimes Farm, Boston, Ky.
January was always hog killing time in Missouri, where I was born and raised.
One year, it was so cold outside, we moved our operation to the basement. Our three kids and I were trimming the meat off the bones and hog head to make sausage.
Laurie, 13, said, “Ooooh, are we going to use the eyeballs too?”
Now she knew we didn’t, but her sister Ronda, 16, cut the eye out and threw it into the ground meat.
Laurie went on, “That’s nasty! Get it out of there!”
I took the eyeball out, and while the girls were busy, I put it into an empty ice cube tray and put it in the back of the freezer. It stayed there until May, when we were all making a garden. I looked at Ronda and said with an exaggerated wink, “How about some iced tea?”
Ronda got it immediately and went to the house. Fifteen minutes later, she handed me a nice glass of tea, then one to her sister.
The eye was so heavy, it sank to the bottom of the glass.
Laurie noticed it and said, “Oh, you put a bean in my tea,” laughing like she caught us in our joke.
Every time she took a drink, Ronda and I would roll laughing, and Laurie would join in. Suddenly, that eye must have looked right at her, because she spit her tea out, slinging the remainder to the wind.
She ran to the house to snitch to her dad, but he couldn’t keep from laughing either.
We tell that story often, and Laurie laughs about it now. She just doesn’t laugh as hard and long as Ronda and I.
Send your stories to Poor Will, P.O. Box 431, Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387. And for more almanack information, visit poorwillsalmanack.com
Poor Will’s Scrambler
In order to estimate your SCRAMBLER IQ, award yourself 15 points for each word unscrambled, adding a 50-point bonus for getting all of them correct. If you find a typo, add another 15 points to your IQ.
Here is this week’s rhyming Scrambler:
This farm news was published in the February 1, 2006 issue of Farm World.