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Katydids and cicadas fill days and nights with song

By Bill Felker

 The scents of a late summer night are sweet and evocative. I sink into them as into a cool, northern lake. To tread on bergamot or gill-over-the-ground in the darkness is to be instantly enveloped in spicy sweetness…. The off fungal smell of mushroom shouldering up through the soil prickles in our nostrils, unmistakable and indescribable. We sniff like bears. – Cathy Johnson


The Moon, the Stars and the Meteors

The Restless Billy Goat Moon, new on Aug. 8, waxes throughout the week, entering its second quarter at 10:20 a.m. on Aug. 15 and reaching perigee, its position closest to Earth, on Aug. 17 at 4:00 a.m. Rising in the morning and setting in the evening, this moon passes overhead in the afternoon, encouraging creatures to be more active then, especially as the Aug. 17 cool front approaches.

August is the month of the Milky Way in the eastern night sky. Cygnus can be found there, its formation a giant cross. Below Cygnus is Aquila, spreading like a great eagle. Almost directly above you, Vega of the constellation Lyra, is the brightest star in the heavens. Hercules stands beside it. Early summer’s Corona Borealis and Arcturus have moved to the west.

The Perseid meteor shower occurs July 17-Aug. 24, peaking on Aug. 12-13 with up to 60 meteors in an hour.


Weather Trends

August 12, 13, and 14 are historically three of the driest days of late summer. Those three days are also the sunniest of the week. Chances of precipitation increase to 25 percent on the 15th, and to 40 percent by the 18th, with the percentage of cloud cover growing with the rain.

This is the week that summer’s retreat is measurable in the likelihood of early morning lows in the 40s (a 10 percent chance now exists for such cold through the rest of the month). And last week, chances of 90s were steady about 40 percent. Suddenly, those chances are reduced by half, and Aug. 17 is the last day of the year on which a high of 100 degrees is still reasonable to expect. This shift to autumn often goes unnoticed, since highs in the 80s and 90s continue to dominate the afternoons. Brisk highs in the 60s, however, now occur 5 percent of the days on record.



(Events in Nature that Tell the Time of Year)

Violet Joe Pye weed becomes gray like the thistledown. Fruit of the bittersweet ripens. Spicebush berries redden. Rose pinks and great blue lobelias hide in the waysides.

This is the time that spiders in the woods weave their final webs. The katydids now chant through the night. Cicadas fill the afternoons.

Grackle activity increases while cardinal song becomes less frequent. The early morning robins are silent. Whip-poor-wills, cedar waxwings and catbirds follow the signs toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Morning fogs are thickening as the night air cools more often into the 50s.

The end of fireflies, the occasional long and loud robin valediction song, the yellow jackets in the windfall apples and plums, the appearance of white snakeroot and boneset flowers, the fading of cottonwood foliage, and the occasional falling leaf combine now with all the other endings and beginnings to accelerate the passage of the summer, building momentum with an accumulation of more and more events.


Mind and Body

The S.A.D. Index, which measures seasonal stress on a scale from 1 to 100, reveals challenges both from Dog Day heat and lunar phase this week, flirting with the 40s most days. Continue to be good to yourself, pace your work and family load, eat right and get moderate exercise in the morning or evening – or in an air-conditioned gym.


In the Field and Garden

The day’s length, which shortened at the rate of only six minutes a week one month ago, now contracts more than a quarter of an hour in a week, providing more breeding stimulus to ewes and does.

Watermelons are ripe; summer apples are half picked, and tobacco is topped on about two-thirds of Ohio Valley plots. 

Almost all the soybeans have flowered. Farmers are bringing in corn for silage, digging potatoes, picking tomatoes and finishing the second or third cut of alfalfa hay. Soybean foliage is turning; and the flowers have set their pods.

Seed the lawn and band seed alfalfa. Smooth brome grass, orchard grass and timothy are also good crops for August planting.

The first ears of field corn are mature by today and at least a third of the crop is in dent. Some green acorns are falling into the buckets of acorn roasters and tempting deer to gather near groves of oaks.


Heading toward the Promised Land

By Pliny Fulkner, Happy Times Farm

The early 19th century witnessed the greatest squirrel migrations in recorded history. As the forests of the East were destroyed, the animals moved west toward Ohio and Indiana.

“They were evidently under some leadership and knew where to go,” according to Howe’s Historical Collections (1908), and they “had gathered as a mighty host with banners and, under some chosen Moses among them, were heading toward the Promised Land.”

Most of them never reached that destination. Their numbers alarmed farmers, and entire villages turned out to stop the threat to cornfields and gardens. Between 1810 and 1850, newspapers consistently reported squirrel kills in the thousands.

The most devastating hunt of all may have occurred in Scioto County, Ohio. during August of 1822. For three days, the pioneers went out “to prevent the alarming ravages of these mischievous neighbors.”

The Columbus Gazette gave this account of their success: “On counting the scalps, it appeared that 19,660 scalps were produced. It is impossible to say what number in all was killed, as a great many of the hunters did not come in. We think we can safely challenge any other county in the state to kill squirrels with us.”

The Scioto hunt may have come at the peak of the migrations. No county rose to meet the Gazette’s challenge. A few decades later, the virgin forest and most of the squirrels were gone.


Poor Will pays for your stories

Poor Will pays $4 for unusual and true farm, garden, animal and even love stories used in this almanack. Send yours to Poor Will’s Almanack at P.O. Box 431, Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387 or to



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Copyright 2021 – W. L. Felker