Poor Will’s Almanack
By Bill Felker
Day unto day uttereth speech,
And night unto night sheweth knowledge. – Psalm XIX
The First Week of Middle Fall
The Moon, the Stars, the Shooting Stars and the Sun
The Blackbirds in the Cornfields Moon entered its second quarter at 7:14 p.m. on Oct. 2. It waxed to lunar perigee, its position closest to Earth, on Oct. 4 and then becomes completely full on Oct. 9 at 1:55 p.m. Rising in the late afternoon and setting near dawn, this moon is overhead in the middle of the night.
At the start of October, the day’s length is about 11 hours and 45 minutes. At the end of the month, the day is only 10 hours and 30 minutes long.
The Pleiades, and the Hyades of Taurus, lie on the eastern horizon well after dark, announcing middle autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. Nonetheless, summer’s Milky Way is still almost directly overhead, and June’s Corona Borealis has still not set by 10 p.m.
The Draconid Meteor Shower takes place October 6-10 and peaks on Oct. 7. Only a few meteors will be visible with this shower, but look for it along the northern horizon in Draco.
Average temperatures have plunged six degrees throughout the country since early September. Skies remain generally clear, but the afternoons are almost always cool. Full moon on Oct. 9, along with lunar perigee on Oct. 4, are likely to make the days and nights even chillier than average. This time is often favorable for harvest, but precipitation increases (along with the chances for storms and snow in the North) as the Oct. 13 system approaches.
Zeitgebers: Events in Nature that Tell the Time of Year
Goldenrod is seeding now, pods of the eastern burning bush are open, hawthorn berries redden, wild grapes are purple. Streaks of scarlet appear on the oaks, shades of pink on the dogwoods. The surviving ashes show red or gold; the catalpas and the cottonwoods blanch. Shagbark hickories, tulip trees, sassafras, elms, locusts and sweet gums change to full yellow, merge with the swelling orange of the maples.
As the canopy thins above the garden, the tall sedums begin to relinquish their petals, and autumn crocuses die back. August’s jumpseeds are jumping, touch-me-nots popping, thimble plants unraveling. The toothed leaves of beggarticks darken overnight.
Cabbage butterflies become more reckless now in their search for nectar. Aphids disappear in the chilly nights. Cicadas die. Japanese beetles complete their season. Daddy longlegs no longer hunt the undergrowth. Damselflies are rare along the rivers now, and darners have left their suburban ponds.
In the Field and Garden
Harvest honey from your hives (leaving plenty for the bees). Also bring in pumpkins and winter squash before the weather gets much colder.
The darkening moon after the 9th favors planting root crops, setting spring flower bulbs and transplanting perennials. Plants and bulbs intended for spring forcing should be placed in light soil now and stored in a place where temperatures remain cool (but not freezing).
The fields may be regreening now with secondary growth and fall varieties. Provide plenty of free choice hay to livestock in order reduce the chance they will gorge themselves on fresh growth.
After the leaves come down from each of your trees, provide fertilizer that will gradually feed their roots through the late fall and winter.
Mind and Body
The S.A.D. Stress Index (which measures the forces thought to be associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder on a scale from 1 to 100) lies in the 40s and 50s this week. October’s foliage color peak has been shown to temporarily change the brain chemistry of people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder. The brilliance of autumn leaves can counter depression and promote an optimistic view on life.
Eye of the Beholder
by...Name lost in Almanack files
If you move from place to place, as I did as a child, for self-preservation it becomes necessary to make life a game. With every move, sometimes the next house you will call home may not be ready to occupy, and a short-term residence must be found with little or no notice. When I was about 5, the most incredible short-term residence was found, almost at the last minute.
My father had taken a position in Connecticut and had found a house in the suburbs, just outside of town. As our belongings were being packed to be shipped by carrier truck, my parents were advised that the prior owners of the house were still in residence; their new house was still not ready and they were refusing the move out. At the last minute, the real estate agent who sold the house offered my parents his fishing cabin in rural Connecticut to live in until the original homeowners moved out. With much reservation and a lot of trepidation, my parents took the cabin.
To call the cabin “rustic” was an anachronism. The place barely had electricity – movement about the house caused the lights to flicker and fade, and mice could be heard scurrying inside the walls, making my mother and older sister crazy. The most endearing feature though was the outhouse just outside the back door. It seems that the real estate agent really wanted to “rough-it” while taking a break from city life.
My mother put our furniture in storage – she did not want anything chewed by mice, flipped the oil painting of the reclining nude female to face the wall over the fireplace, and unpacked our clothes. Luckily, it was summer, and we would not need much for the next month or so. It was fun to go to the store every day to buy that day’s lunch and dinner items, as the tiny refrigerator in the cabin did not hold much food and my mother did not wish to leave food out in the open in order to not encourage the mice to stay. Equally, I enjoyed taking a bath in the wading pool in the kitchen at night, as there was just a small sink in the kitchen with running water and no tub to speak of.
I can state without a doubt that my mother shuddered every time she had to use the outhouse. Within a week, she had cleaned the outhouse thoroughly, bought a new seat for the “throne” and curtains for the window, placed a few small vases with wildflowers around the inside of the outhouse, but the crowning achievement had to be the soft, fuzzy bathmat she placed on the floor. She had managed to turn the basic utilitarian structure into a thing of beauty.
Unfortunately, her idea of beauty was not shared by the mice who were regular tenants on the property. Within a short period of time, the mice had shredded the curtains, knocked over all the vases, and most disconcertingly, chewed large holes in the soft fluffy mat on the floor. There’s just no counting on the taste of some critics!
ANSWERS TO LAST WEEK’S
THIS WEEK’S RHYMING SCKRAMBLER
Copyright 2022 – W. L. Felker