|Poor Willís Almanack
By Bill Felker
October 16-22, 2006
I walk about, taking stock of the innumerable changes on the hillside. The clump of golden asters is now dry and brown, the milkweeds, stripped of their leaves, are straight spikes thrusting up from the ground and holding the browning seed pods. Seeds are everywhere. I fend them between my fingers when I run my hands through the grass tops. Autumn is a time of accounting, summing up, harvest and inventory.
-Edwin Way Teale
The astronomical calendar for the second week of middle fall:
The Woolly Bear Moon wanes through the period, becoming the new Skunk Cabbage Moon on Oct. 22 at 12:14 a.m. Rising after midnight and setting in the afternoon, the fourth-quarter moon is overhead in the late morning. The Orionid meteors continue to fall through Orion before dawn, and the dark moon should create the best meteor watching of the month.
Oct. 23 is Cross-Quarter Day, the halfway mark between autumn equinox and winter solstice.
Oct. 23: After a few days of milder weather following the passage of the Oct. 17 front, the chances for highs only in the 30s sweep across the nation, and the odds for afternoons in the 70s drop quickly with the arrival of the Oct. 23 high-pressure system. Except for southern states, 80s remain a fantasy until April.
When wild cucumber fruits are dry and empty, then all the goldenrod will have gone to seed and yellow jackets often swarm on the windfall apples.
When peak leaf color appears in the maples, then robin migration intensifies across the nationís midsection.
When the autumn sun warms the black pavement, woolly bear caterpillars crawl across the country roads in search of winter quarters.
When the first of last yearís Christmas cactus flowers in a south window, then New England asters reach the end of their blooming cycle.
When turkey vultures migrate, then the first ginkgo leaves of the autumn start to fall.
When the dayís length falls below eleven hours (in the third week of October), then peak leaf color quickly fades nine years in 10, and light snow occurs one year in a decade.
When the burning bush sheds its leaves, then great flocks of blackbirds visit your trees.
When the garden stonecrop has all gone to seed, then dig dahlias and other tender flowers before a hard freeze.
When the final raspberries of the year redden, then the sun has reached halfway between equinox and winter solstice.
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, rises from the 40s into the high 50s this week as new moon approaches. People susceptible to seasonal affective disorders should be most uncomfortable between Oct. 21-23.
Best fishing and hunting
As the moon darkens, it moves overhead near the middle of the day, encouraging fish and game to be more active.
Scouting, angling and hunting should be most productive in the late mornings before the arrival of the Oct. 23 cold front.
Counting the days of autumn
At this point in the year, the most temperate weather of the year is gone, and it is time to count the days left for autumn chores and harvest.
Of course, uncertainty is predictable at the end of Indian Summer. There is some mild, dry weather left, but how much?
The day is a little more than 11 hours long. But it will lose more than 40 minutes in the last two weeks of October, and then on the last Sunday of the month, Daylight Savings Time ends. Evenings will suddenly be dark. And as the sun retreats, the odds for cold and precipitation rise.
Today, average high temperatures are close to 65 degrees, with lows near 45. Of the remaining October days, two or three should be in the 70s, four or five in the 60s, four or five in the 50s and one or two in the 40s or 30s.
One of every three will be cloudy and rainy; one in three averages a freeze.
After Halloween, the workday begins to shrink even more quickly, losing two minutes every 24 hours, and the odds for decent temperatures plummet.
In all November, there is an average of only one or two days in the 70s, just six in the 60s and only eight in the 50s. That makes just half the month with moderate afternoons, and many of those fall within a week of Halloween.
If there will only be two weeks of moderation in November, and just seven days of really mild weather, odds are even that most of those warmer days will be cloudy (the sun is hidden on 18 out of Novemberís 30 days).
The sky becomes especially gray after Oct. 14 of the month, the solar pivot time after which the region darkens until May.
And then the first snow almost always arrives between Nov. 10-20.
The last week of late fall is the first week of December. By then, average highs have fallen into the 40s.
There is only a one-in-10 chance that 60 degrees will come again after Dec. 1, and only a one-in-three chance that temperatures will break 50 (there are usually only 5-10 days above 50 in the entire month of December).
Snow or sleet falls eight years in 10 that first period of the last month, and it almost always rains besides.
So when you finally sit down to add up all the nice days, subtract the cold, damp ones and divide by the number of chores left to do this fall, the time seems pretty short.
Figure there are 50 days left to autumn: maybe six or seven decent ones remain in October; November, with its nine periods of rainfall, has only 20 dry days, and just half of those are even close to 60 degrees. You eliminate all but 1-2 days in the first week of December and you end up with a total of maybe 19-20 benign days between now and the arrival of early winter (Dec. 8) for fertilizing, harvesting, wood cutting, planting winter wheat, raking leaves, transplanting, and digging spring bulbs.
Poor Willís Almanack pays $3 to the author of any story printed in this column. Send your writing to Poor Will, P.O. Box 431, Yellow Springs, OH 45387. Christmas and New Yearís stories are needed right away!
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 Oct. 11, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.