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Poor Will’s Almanack
By Bill Felker

December 11-17, 2006 Autumn is finally, officially gone. Like the evening of the day, the fall has been a time of ceaseless alteration. Cold, in the autumn, is overcoming the heart just as darkness, in the evening is overcoming the light.
-Edwin Way Teale

The astronomical calendar for the second week of early winter:
The Orchid Moon wanes throughout the period, turning into the new Owl Nesting Moon on Dec. 20 at 9:01 a.m. Winter solstice for 2006 occurs at 7:22 p.m. on Dec. 21.

The night lengthens by only three minutes in the next seven days, the first time the day has shortened so slowly since the middle of July. And Dec. 14 is the sunset pivot day for spring: beginning that evening in much of the region, the sun goes down one minute later for the first time since July 2.

The Pleiades and Taurus will be almost directly overhead at 11 p.m. this week, and Orion will be fully visible behind them. The Great Square will be setting in the far west, and Regulus, the brightest star of spring, will be just starting to rise along the eastern tree line. Summer’s Altair of the constellation Aquila sets by midnight; it appears again in the night sky at the end of May.

Weather patterns
Dec. 15: The strongest cold wave so far in the season typically moves across the nation between Dec. 15 and 17. Some of the coldest December days on record follow this front, and double-digit below-zero temperatures enter the realm of possibility. The strength of the December 15th high-pressure system is also associated with higher-than-average precipitation both before and after its arrival.

Dec. 20: The December 20th high-pressure wave is the first of two “white-Christmas” fronts. It is often a relatively mild system, but it has a good chance of producing snow all across the northern tier of states. Travel is favored after the arrival of this front but before the general meteorological disturbances of Dec. 24.

Natural year
When you find antlers in the snow from white-tailed bucks, then you know that mango trees are flowering in southern Florida and that early spring is only 75 days away from your garden.

When you see wild game moving to areas where cover is thickest, then expect the weather to get colder soon.

When solstice arrives, mark the place on the horizon where the sun rises and sets; watch spring move toward you as the dawn and sunset slowly travel south. You can also use a gnomon, or shadow indicator, to measure the progress of spring. Walls and floors are the easiest gnomons, and they are already set up for you to use. Since the sun recedes across your space a few centimeters every day between now and June, mark the deepest intrusion of the sunlight into your room this week at noon. Or pick a tree, a fence post or a building, and mark the length of its shadow. Then keep track of the slow contraction of that shadow until it almost disappears in the summer.

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 to 90 by the end of next week, signaling the start of the most difficult time of year for those who suffer from seasonal affective disorders.

Best fishing
The dark moon is overhead in the morning, making that time especially productive. As the barometer falls in advance of the December 15th cold front, fish and game will be even more active before noon.

Reluctant Ruth
By Elizabeth McCaslin, Hartville, Ohio
Ruth, a Border Leicester ewe, is the matriarch of the flock. Wise and calm, she’s usually leading the way.

On a beautiful spring day, the morning after a big rainstorm, the low parts of the pasture were flooded. I called the sheep in from the back pasture and they all came in, and even the lambs jumped through the water. But looking again I saw Ruth still out there alone, not willing to cross the water. I wondered at that, and went out to see what was going on. Sure enough, she had two new little lambs with her, a black one and a white one.

She was smart enough not to cross through the water with them. I carried the feisty, squirming little lambs across the flooded area and she followed right along, knowing they were safe.

Poor Will’s 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.


Here is this week’s rhyming Scrambler:


This farm news was published in the Dec. 6, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.