|Poor Will’s Almanack
By Bill Felker
February 13-19, 2006
The entire land sets out to work,
All beasts browse in the fields.
Trees, herbs are sprouting.
-Egyptian hymn to Aten
The astronomical calendar for the first week of early spring:
The Hellebore Moon wanes throughout the period, entering its last quarter at 2:17 a.m. on Feb. 21. February 18 is Cross-Quarter Day, the day on which the sun reaches halfway to equinox. The sun enters the early spring sign of Pisces at the same time.
Throughout the region, early spring fills the six weeks between the middle of February and the end March. This month and a half links the deep winter cold with the lushness of April, and it is made up of constellations of color, motion and sound, and of new sprouts and leaves, birds, insects, mammals and fishes. In the Deep South, this season can arrive in the middle of the year’s first weeks; along the Canadian border, it comes in May. Here in the lower Midwest, it arrives today.
Feb. 15: Sap should flow as the weather warms between Feb. 15 and 24. These are often the mildest days of the year so far everywhere in the United States, and when the gentle days are accompanied by nights below freezing, they may be ideal for tapping trees.
Feb. 20: Although high pressure does sweep across the nation near this date, the low that precedes that front often brings some of the warmest temperatures of the month. Even when it passes through, the system rarely brings major difficulties to travelers or farmers. And as the barometer drops before the next front, it makes Feb. 22 and 23 some of the gentlest days since early December.
Feb. 20: Although high pressure does sweep across the nation near this date, the low that precedes that front often brings some of the warmest temperatures of the month. Even when it passes through, the system rarely brings major difficulties to travelers or farmers. And as the barometer drops before the next front, it makes Feb. 22 and 23 some of the most gentle days since early December.
Feb. 24: After the benign days of February’s third week that often force snowdrops and aconites into bloom, the chilly February 24th front almost always pushes Snowdrop Winter deep into the South.
Since this high often clashes strongly with the moist air of early spring, snowstorms, flooding and tornadoes are more likely to occur now than at any time since Feb. 15. February 26, or the day after this high pressure passes through, however, is dry and partly cloudy most of the time, and Feb. 27 is usually mild as low-pressure precedes the end-of-the-month high.
When you see the first snowdrops and aconites flowering together in the warmest microclimates beside the prophetic hellebores and Chinese witchhazels of late January, you will know that skunk cabbage is blossoming in the swamps.
When you see common chickweed and henbit budding in the alley or garden, you can be sure the female red-winged blackbirds have returned from the South.
When you see the first snow crocus, complete all winter pruning and seed cold frames with lettuce, chard, and spinach. This year, the blossoming of the snow crocus coincides with the dark moon, and that favors pruning. Take out suckers, dead and crossing branches. Cut fruit trees down to the right level for picking, but don’t prune what will bloom before June, and wait for July or August for maples.
When the moon wanes through its third quarter (between Feb. 13 and 20), be ready for your animals to give birth up to a week early near that time of the month (the waning moon is also associated with abortions in livestock).
When you see the first dandelion in bloom, force branches from flowering trees and inspect preserved food for spoilage. Test your field and garden soil and prepare to spread fertilizer as conditions permit.
When the moon enters its fourth quarter on Feb. 20, mark you calendar: all tender vegetables and flowers can be set out 12 weeks from that date. Then, plant your first peas.
Before Snowdrop Winter arrives during the final week of February, spray ash, bittersweet, fir, elm, flowering fruit trees, hawthorn, juniper, lilac, linden, maple, oak, pine, poplar, spruce, sweet gum, tulip tree and willow for scales and mites.
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, falls into the middle 50s by the time the moon enters its fourth quarter (on Feb. 21).
Seasonal affective disorders should drop quickly throughout the week as the day’s length, the amount of likely sunshine, the weak moon and the arrival of early spring come together to make most people feel better than they did a month ago.
Take advantage of the approach of early spring and the dropping barometer to go fishing (with the moon overhead in the morning) after the February 14th cold front has moved well into the East and the February 20th cold front approaches.
More good iced tea
Another Memory Story by Susan Perkins, Hardtimes Farm, Boston, Ky.
Laurie hadn’t forgotten the joke her sister Ronda and I played on her with the pig eye (see last week’s Almanack).
It was late August, hot, humid, and miserable in Missouri.
All three of us females in the Perkins house drew garage clean up. No one was in a good mood looking at the task before us.
I surveyed the mess, taking note of a blue Mason-jar type glass sitting on the table saw. This lovely jewel had been there a while, as it was an inch deep with flies and bugs.
I studied on that evil trick Ronda and I pulled on Laurie last May.
“Laurie,” I said, “how about getting all three of us a cold glass of tea … I want a blue Mason jar glass … it’s easier to hold on to with the handle and all.”
More than happy to get out of some of the dirty work, she left, returning with three glasses, all blue, all full of tea.
I winked at Laurie, who instantly knew I was up to something.
“Ronda, will you roll up that cord? I keep tripping on it,” I said.
When Ronda went to get the cord, I switched the nasty bug filled glass with the fresh glass of tea. I slipped some of the ice into the replacement, and left it where Ronda had left her tea glass.
Sure enough, she came right back to her glass of tea and took a big swig, spurting and spitting, gagging on the witches brew.
Laurie and I rolled laughing. Ronda started laughing with us, having the best sense of humor of us all. Why, she didn’t even snitch on Laurie and me.
Send your stories to Poor Will, 316 South High, 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 8, 2006 issue of Farm World.