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One last cold front typically ushers winter out, spring in
Poor Will’s Almanack
By Bill Felker

March 13-19, 2006
A day when the white fires of March are sweeping over the wide landscape … Willows gleam with brilliant yellow … The wind blows endlessly … Spiders scattering in dry grass … Crows flying over wide valleys … I drink out of a maple sap bucket…if only a man could drink of it and thereby become one with this quickening fire of March ...
-Charles Burchfield, Journal

The astronomical calendar for the fifth week of early spring:
The Pussy Willow Moon enters its final quarter at 2:10 p.m. on March 22. Rising after sunset and setting near sunrise, the moon will be overhead after midnight.

Spring equinox occurs at 1:26 p.m. on March 20. In just 15 days, on April 4, the sun reaches 25 percent of the way to summer solstice.

If you scan the horizon an hour or so before sunrise, you will see the wandering stars of Capricorn in the southeast. In the south, find Sagittarius, and then Scorpius (easily identified by the red star, Antares, in its center. West of Scorpius, is boxy Libra. West of Libra is Virgo, marked by Spica, the brightest of the western stars.

Weather patterns
March 19: The cold front that arrives within a day or two of equinox marks the end of the worst of the weather systems of the first half of the year.

Expect precipitation and frost with this high, and the greatest likelihood for thunder and lightning since the end of last summer. After the front passes through, look for sun and more frost, then a decided warm-up. Although the “first day of spring” is often chilly, it is frequently partly to mostly sunny.

March 24: This front, like the March 14th system, is relatively mild, and it is followed by some of the driest and brightest days so far in the year.

Natural year
When you hear turkeys gobbling in the woods, then toad trillium will be pushing up through the mulch.

When you see willows glowing yellow-green with spring, then you know ragwort is budding in the wetlands.

When you see the first violet periwinkle blooming, then you know lamb’s quarters, beggarticks, pigweed and amaranth are sprouting in the garden.

When new clematis leaves emerge, comfrey foliage will be at least two inches and henbit will be in full bloom.

When white-flowered magnolias bloom, then snow trillium will be blossoming in the bottomlands, and sandhill cranes will be migrating north in the Rocky Mountains.

When scillas color the lawns blue, then raspberry leaves will be ready for tea, and touch-me-nots will have sprouted in the swamps. When you see early spring’s first butterflies - the question marks and the tortoiseshells and the cabbage moths - then catfish are getting ready to feed.

When pollen forms on all the pussy willows, then yellow-bellied sapsuckers are mating and violet cress is opening along the rivers.

When goldfinches turn summer gold, then early spring is ending, and middle spring will arrive within a week.

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, moves down into the mid 40s by March 21, definitely an improvement from the end of February.

Now most people who suffer from S.A.D. will begin to notice a definite positive change in their mood.

Best fishing
When the weak moon moves overhead near dawn, fishing picks up in the morning hours, especially as the barometer falls in advance of the March 24th cold front.

After that front passes through, but before the chilling front of March 29, expect gentle weather and some of the best angling so far this year.

Bordering on genius
By Lea McEvilly
My one ewe, though eating well and with the will to live, was unable to get up by herself. We tried different types of therapy without much effect.

I moved her to an area along a wall; there was a small step leading to a ramp ahead of her.I continued helping her up and, before long, she learned to push her head against the step, brace herself against the wall and struggle to her feet for brief periods. Finally, she could stand and eat her feed from a feeder placed next to her.

Soon she was moving about almost like a normal sheep, although not looking quite like one. I did have some qualms, however. How would she fare in the depths of winter, the barn crowded with lambing ewes, and every available space needed for lambing pens? In late summer, fall fast approaching, an acquaintance called. The lamb she had purchased for her children was lonely and bleating, and she was seeking a companion lamb.

All my lambs were sold, but it dawned on me that this might be the haven my ewe needed for the winter, and in turn, she would be a friend for the lonely lamb.

I broached this possibility to the caller, and she immediately said it sounded perfect, but could she bring her children to see the sheep and then decide? That was agreeable and a date was set.

The day arrived; the children, two girls and a boy, were delighted with the friendly ewe. They had a van, and excitedly showed me the compartment in back bedded with straw for the sheep. When the ewe was loaded into the van she seemed quite comfortable there, and the 10-year-old boy was sitting in the seat in front of her petting her and conversing with her.

The rest of us headed to the house, as the little girls needed a bathroom break. I put the coffee on, and got out milk and cookies; the boy was called to come in for a snack. After cookies, milk, coffee, and a brief visit, they headed to their van.

I thought they had left, but presently I looked out the window and saw the van was still here. I stepped outside and heard the unmistakable sound of a battery giving up its’ ghost. The mother jumped out, and amazingly, she was laughing!

“You won’t believe what that sheep did!” she shouted, “She locked all the doors and turned on the lights!” Apparently, missing the boy’s attention, the ewe climbed over into the next seat, went from window to window, bumping lock buttons, on to the next seat, again locking doors, and finally the driver’s seat, where she not only locked the doors, but turned on the headlights. They had to use the back doors to get into the van, and then found their battery was nearly dead.

My son came home at this point, and used his jumper cables to start the van. Soon they and their new sheep were on their way. No doubt the smart ewe decided, once she was alone and not being fussed over, that she didn’t want to leave this place after all, and proceeded to disable the van.

Last check, the ewe was doing fine, and smart as ever.

Send your stories to Poor Will, P.O. Box 431, Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387. And for more almanack information, visit poorwillsalmanack.com

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. If you find a typo, add another 15 points to your IQ.

MUBP, BUMP
LUCPM, CLUMP
UDMP, DUMP
PUMH, HUMP
JPMU, JUMP
LUPM, LUMP
MUPM, MUMP
LUPPM, PLUMP
RUTMP, TRUMP
PULSM, SLUMP

Here is this week’s rhyming Scrambler:
COKL
CKOLC
KOCMS
OLKCF
KCOH
COSK
CKLBO
OPKC
CKOR
NOCKK

This farm news was published in the March 8, 2006 issue of Farm World.

3/8/2006