|Poor Willís Almanack
By Bill Felker
September 18-24, 2006
Between the end of summer and the shortest day of the year, I battle a constant feeling of disbelief. All things come to a halt rapidly; the garden is all brown stalks and the ground is tightening. What continues to grow and bloom does so in isolation.
The astronomical calendar for the third week of early fall:
The crescent Woolly Bear Moon, new at 6:45 a.m. on Sept. 22, waxes throughout the week.
Fall equinox occurs at 11:03 p.m. on Sept. 22. An annular solar eclipse will also take place on Sept. 22, but it will not be visible from the continental United States.
Sept. 24: The September 24th weather system brings some relief from lingering Dog Days in the South; it also extends frost season down into the Mid-Atlantic states, odds for damaging temperatures now doubling over the odds associated with the equinox front.
Sept. 29: The chances for light frost with this front approach 80 percent all across the North, 50 percent in the lower Midwest, and even reach 20 percent across the South.
Although lunar position is weak as this weather system arrives, average temperatures now start to fall at the rate of about four degrees per week - no matter what the moon says.
When doves stop calling in the mornings, then Fletcher scale attacks arborvitae; locust borers assault the locusts; pine root collar weevils move to the pine trees.
When cobwebs are all over the woods and butterflies multiply in the garden, thatís the time to plant your last lettuce and radishes of the year, and complete the harvest of summer apples.
When you see red berries on the silver olive bushes, orange berries on the American mountain ash, and purple berries on the pokeweed, then look for yellow jackets to be active in the windfall apples.
When violet autumn crocuses blossom in town, then sandhill cranes have started their migration to the Gulf coast.
When you see young toads in the garden on the cooler evenings, then ragweed season will be at an end.
When the autumn leafturn starts along the 40th Parallel, the deciduous trees are bare in northern Canada. In New England and in the Rocky Mountains, foliage colors are approaching their best.
When rheumatic ailments in livestock and humans threaten as autumnal chill sinks in, head off these problems with paprika, parsley, comfrey, burdock, chickweed, rosemary, and garlic.
When alfalfa growth slows, move your flock and herd to orchard grass, timothy, bluegrass and broom grass.
Best fishing and hunting
The dark moon is overhead in the middle of the day this week, encouraging fish and game to feed. Activity in the water and woods should increase as the barometer falls in advance of the Sept. 20 and Sept. 28 cool fronts.
Predicting the weather at home
Learning to forecast the weather may not seem important in these days of satellites and radar. Still, that process has certain qualities that recommend it: forecasting is free, requires relatively little time each day, harms no one, brings its practitioner closer to nature, and promotes a sense of self-sufficiency.
City people can become forecasters just as well as country people. Office workers may be more confined than farmers, but everyone can pay attention to what he or she sees. It is the patient and the curious who will come out the best forecasters, not necessarily the ones who are the smartest or who stay outside the most.
You might start by cutting the weather section from the paper, making your own history from information that is already available.
Comments in the margin of those clippings about the temperature, precipitation, direction of the wind, the color, height and shape of the clouds, the humidity, and the activity of your barometer can temper impersonal statistics with the reality of your own yard or garden.
Itís just as easy to keep your own data from day to day with a few simple instruments. Thermometers can be purchased at a hardware store or garden center, and you can make your own rain gauge, just set a pan outside in the yard, and measure with a ruler when the shower stops.
Barometers are a little harder to find, but are worth the trouble. They are easy to read, and itís instructive and fun to graph the ups and downs of the high and low-pressure systems, which pass over your property every few days.
Although you can keep track of the arrival of those systems with a record of daily high and low temperatures, the barometer will help you see the milder ones, and will often give you warning when the weatherís about to change.
Barometric records kept for several years have the added benefit of showing you the typical dates for the arrival of high-pressure systems, the effects of those systems, and the likelihood that similar conditions will be repeated. You will also begin to understand how all the ancient as well as current almanacs come up with their forecasts.
The first almanackers did just what you can do. They recorded the arrival of the cold fronts, took note of the kind of weather associated with those fronts, averaged the dates of their passage, and then created the standard almanac weather sequence (mild followed by clouds and precipitation, followed by wind and cold and clearing) which is still valid today.
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, peaks at a moderately troublesome 38 on Sept. 22, then falls to the gentle 20s through the remainder of the month.
Poor Willís 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 weekís rhyming Scrambler:
This farm news was published in the Sept. 13, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.