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Winter nights starting to lose minutes to the coming spring
 
Jan. 14-20, 2013
The leaves are all dead on the ground
Save those the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.
-Robert Frost

Lunar phase and lore
The Spinning Cranefly Moon waxes throughout the period, entering its second quarter at 6:45 p.m. on Jan. 18. Rising late in the morning and setting well after dark, this moon moves overhead in the late afternoon.
Lunar position will be most powerful (encouraging dieters and fish to bite) just before suppertime, especially as the cold fronts of Jan. 15 and 19 approach.

Lunar position in Pisces between Jan. 14-16 and in Taurus between Jan. 18-21 should be especially nurturing for new seeds planted under lights. Wait to do your midwinter pruning until the moon is waning, after Jan. 26.

If you look due south along the horizon when you get up for chores or exercise, the brightest star you see is Spica in the constellation of Virgo. To the southeast, near the tree line, you should be able to make out a box-like formation; that’s Libra.
Then near Libra in the southeast is lanky Scorpio. If you look west from Spica and up into the heavens, you should be able to see Regulus of the constellation Leo, then Cancer, like a man walking into the western horizon.
Weather trends
After its passage, the Jan. 15 front initiates a two-week period during which average temperatures are the lowest of the year. Days on which the temperature does not rise above zero typically occur more often this week than any other week, and morning lows below zero occur after the Jan. 15 front more often than at any other time.

On the other hand, after this high moves east, the chances for a slight warm-up increase. During January’s third week in 1890, one of the longest record-breaking thaws in weather history warmed temperatures into the 60s for three days across the Midwest.
Beginning on Jan. 19, the January Thaw window opens, a brief space during which much milder temperatures and an increased likelihood of blizzards, thunderstorms, tornados and flooding occurs. After the passage of the Jan. 19 front, the average chances for cold increase for a day or two, then fall off slowly, sometimes never recovering their mid-winter strength.

Daybook
Jan. 14: Since this is historically the coldest week of the year, keep energy feed on hand to tide your animals over until the thaw. Keep the livestock’s water temperature between 45-60 degrees.

Jan. 15: Before the January Thaw, purchase grass seed with which to “frost seed” your lawn. As long as there is no snow on the ground, just walk out and sprinkle the seed where it needs to be.
The steady freezing and thawing of the ground should work the seeds in, allowing them to sprout as soon as the weather permits – unless the birds get the seeds first!

Jan. 16: When the January Thaw comes next week, temperatures are likely to rise above 40, perfect for spraying trees for scales and mites. But don’t spray if a freeze is expected within 24 hours. And then, tap a maple tree or two.

Take advantage of winter stability to begin marketing campaigns, make doctor and dentist appointments and plan business expansion, home improvement and farm and garden projects. But don’t work too hard; January and February bring the most heart attacks of the entire year.

Jan. 17: Opossums and raccoons become more active as deep winter wanes, and they appear at night along the back roads. Once you sight these small mammals, then you know for sure January thaw is near and that the next phase of the year is on the way.
Jan. 18: Skunk cabbage is up in the swamps, blackened by the cold but still strong. Watercress holds in the streams. Where the ground is not frozen, new mint grows under the protection of a southern hedge or wall. In the pastures, basal leaves of thistles and mullein are deep green beneath the snow.

Jan. 19: The migration cycle of crows typically starts this week. Their huge gatherings begin to break up as the birds move into smaller flocks and toward nesting sites. This is also the week of the year that a fly will sometimes hatch in your automobile or sunroom, or, if the temperature gets up to 50, you may even find one or two flies outside warming themselves on a south wall.

Jan. 19 is the first day that three minutes are taken away from the night in one 24-hour period. In spite of the cold, the solar advance toward spring quickens. From this week forward, the night contracts by 2-3 minutes per day all the way into June.

Jan. 20: The sun enters its sign of Aquarius. In the South, perennials are coming up; if you see them here, however, cover them quickly with straw so they will make it through the cold days ahead.

Fortunately, my aunt did not try to pet it. But we never let her forget about her pretty black-and-white cat!

Listen to Poor Will’s Radio Almanack on podcast anytime at www.wyso.org and follow Poor Will on Twitter: @poor wilsalmanac
1/9/2013