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Views and opinions: With solstice behind, days are lengthening toward 10 hours


Jan. 15-21, 2018

You see how you fit into this cosmic schema and you see how all is family from one side of the horizon to the other. It is clear to you how the cycles of morning to evening and evening to morning, from springtime to next springtime, from birth to death to birth, all follow similar and necessary trajectories.

-Peter London, Drawing Closer to Nature

Almanac horoscope

The Frolicking Fox Moon, new at 9:17 p.m. on Jan. 16, waxes throughout the period, encouraging foxes and other small wild animals to court and frolic, no matter what the weather. It enters its second quarter at 9:26 p.m. on Jan. 23. Rising in the morning and setting in the evening, this moon passes overhead in the afternoon.

Leaving deep winter’s constellation of Capricorn behind, the sun moves higher in the daytime sky, entering Aquarius on Jan. 20, ushering in the last sub-season of winter (aptly called “late winter”). Little by little, the day’s length is approaching a spring-like 10 hours.

The planets: Jupiter and Mars are still the morning stars this week. Look for them in the southeast in Libra.

The stars: The new moon will be setting in the west these dark evenings, following the Northern Cross (Cygnus) toward the horizon. As you look directly above you, try to find Perseus (looking a little like a horse). In the east, Orion stands tall.

Weather trends

The January Thaw period begins this week and often lasts through Jan. 25. The moon, entering its mild second quarter on Jan. 23, increases the chances of a significant thaw. After Jan. 15, statistics show a warming trend that brings a 35 percent chance for a high in the 40s or 50s on Jan. 16, and a 40 percent chance on Jan. 20, 23 and 24.

On the other hand, days when the temperature does not rise above zero occur more often in the third week than in any other week in the lower Midwest, and morning lows below zero occur more in the third week of January than in any other week of the year.

The natural calendar

Autumn’s fruits are giving way to the weather, measuring the advance of the Northern Hemisphere back toward the sun The feathery heads of virgin’s bower, soft and thick in late November, have blown away in the wind. Hosta pods are almost empty. The final rose of Sharon seeds lie precariously in their open calices. Worn tufts of ironweed are half gone.

The heads of purple coneflowers and zinnias, tough and unyielding a month ago, crumble between your fingers. Some honeysuckle and euonymus berries still hang to their branches, but their flush and firmness are gone. In the greenhouse, the blossoms have withered on the Christmas cacti.

After the January thaw arrives, remnants of the past year no longer point to the warmth of last October. The sharp yucca, tall and bright green, does not look back to June, but forward to June. In wetland ponds, wild iris spears that braved weeks of ice stand strong around the broken strands of lizard’s tail.

Fish, game, livestock and birds: Now is a good time to reserve a feeder pig for spring from someone who raises hogs. If you treat your piglet well throughout the summer and butcher it before Thanksgiving, you should have plenty of pork to get you through the winter.

Along with your pig plans, order a few extra corn, pea, bean and beet seeds for your new addition. Also, reserve your spring chicks for March, April or May so they can gain weight throughout the summer and be ready to lay in the autumn.

Dependable companions in the cold winter mornings, crows now become more boisterous; their migration typically starts this week. Sparrows and starlings court and build nests from now through the end of spring. Overwintering robins become more active in the daytime; opossums and raccoons and frolicking foxes become more active at night as deep winter wanes.

Asian ladybugs sometimes emerge in sunny window sills this time of the month, foretelling the January thaw. In addition, they bring good luck; treat them well.

Hunt and fish prior to the Jan. 19 and 25 cold fronts, and make plans to take advantage of low barometric pressure during the January thaw period. The waxing first-quarter moon will be overhead in the afternoon, making fish and game more likely to be active at that time of day.

Field and garden

New moon on Jan. 19 is a perfect lunar time for putting in all of your bedding plant seeds for spring. Try flats of greens and flowers for setting out in March; plant a second batch of everything at February’s new moon.

Frost seeding typically begins this time of the year. Broadcast crops such as red clover in the pastures, and scatter grass seed over bare spots on the lawn. The freezing and thawing of the ground works the seeds into the soil.

Prepare landscaping, garden and field maps, choosing plans for double-cropping, intercropping and companion planting. Review records to plan ahead for most efficient harvest management. Be prepared for possible drought by ordering sufficient potassium and phosphorus for your fields.

Christmas cacti can be divided and propagated throughout the months ahead. You might turn one cactus into a lucrative business if you’re willing to work at it for a few years.

Marketing notes: Mardi Gras takes place on Feb. 13 this year, and is followed by Chinese New Year (the Year of the Dog) on Feb. 16. Explore needs that celebrants might have for food and paraphernalia.

The influence of the slowly waxing Frolicking Fox Moon weakens throughout the week, and seasonal stress should weaken along with it. Even though the cold and gray skies of winter may be causing irritability and depression, the possibility of a January thaw opens the door to hope and optimism.

Now is the time to pay special attention to even the smallest changes in the landscape around you; they measure the approach of warmth and sun.

Almanac literature

Truck Driver Tries to Save Train

It was the winter of 1978, and I was driving an Ohio Bell Telephone supply truck eastward on State Route 37 to New Lexington, Ohio, at 10 p.m. As I was driving, I saw a Conrail freight train heading toward Columbus.

Suddenly I noticed a fiery flame coming from one of the wheels on a boxcar. I then thought that the wheel would fall off, causing the train to derail. I decided to save the train from derailing.

I hightailed it ahead to the next crossing, parked my truck along the berm and waited for the train. As the locomotive approached, I stood beside the track frantically waving my arms. At first I thought the engineer didn’t see me, but then I heard all the couplings bang loudly and the train finally stopped, blocking the road.

Then I explained what I had seen. We walked back along the train in the deep snow almost to the end of the 90-car freight train. The fireman spotted the wheel in question and found a mostly melted brake shoe. I sure felt sheepish (because that wouldn’t have caused the train to derail). I asked if I could keep the shoe to show my boss and explain myself. They said I could.

Then we walked a little further and found a coupling, which had broken when the engineer tried to stop the train quickly. They said they would have to call a crew down from Columbus to repair it, which would take several hours. And the road was blocked that long.

As I drove away, I thought I was in hot water. But I never heard a peep from my boss, the railroad or anyone else, nor did I read about it in the papers. And I still have that jagged piece of brake shoe to this day, as proof of the time I tried to prevent a train wreck.