Before a tip of green showed in any brushy place you could feel spring growing through the sky. The robins came early, cocking heads in the cold. The gray bodies of the goldfinches yellowed, for all the world like pussy buds blooming. And where no other sign held on wood or field, finger twigs of elder and willow and service swelled beneath their hull of bark.
Lunar phase and lore
The Lenten Rose Moon, showing its petals in the mildest springs, enters its second quarter Feb. 17 at 3:31 p.m., becoming completely full Feb. 25 at 3:26 p.m. The moon will be directly overhead in the evening this week, and after-supper fishing should be productive, especially as the barometer falls in advance of the Feb. 20 and 24 cold fronts.
Seeding of flowers and vegetables that produce their fruit above the ground is especially encouraged by the moon when it passes through Taurus on Feb. 15-17 and through Cancer on Feb. 20-22.
Feb. 22-23 are typically the warmest days of the entire month. For the first time since Dec. 12 there is a 25 percent chance for a high in the 60s, along with a 20 percent for one in the 50s. Forties occur 30 percent of the time, 30s in 25 percent of days.
Skies are cloudy 65 percent of the years in my record, with rain or snow likely 45 percent of the years. Although February and March still have plenty of clouds in store, the frequency of brighter days now shows a slow but steady advance.
Feb. 18: Today is Cross-Quarter Day. Depending on the year and your location, killing frosts could be over in 6-8 weeks. Always plan to have some plants ready to go into the ground early. Many years, they will survive and give you a bonus harvest.
Feb. 19: Do late pruning on colder afternoons. Dig fence post holes while the ground is still soft and wet. Check tobacco plots for pH – 6.4 is recommended.
Feb. 20: In the mild afternoons, ragwort and dock grow tall in the swamps. A few deep red peony stalks appear underneath the mulch. Then, yellow aconite, white snow drops and yellow and purple snow crocus bloom.
Pussy willows open wide. Ambystoma salamanders mate at night in the first rains. Mallards scout for nesting sites. Moths and water striders appear on warmer days.
Feb. 21: By full moon on Feb. 25, all the local syrup tappers will be tapping the maples for sap. Moss will be growing a little more on the old logs, and crocus, daffodil and tulip foliage will have pushed far out above the mulch.
Garlic planted in late November will be at least six inches tall. The first rhubarb leaves will be unfolding. Henbit can be blossoming in the alleys, skunk cabbage in the swamps.
Feb. 22: The soft days of early spring tell mallards, canvasback ducks and killdeer to check out sites for laying eggs. Wrens are making nests, and the milder afternoons call out the moths and water striders.
Earthworms become active again; any day now, you will see them crossing roads and sidewalks in the lukewarm rains.
Feb. 23: Mares show signs of estrus as the days grow longer. The last of the lambs and kids conceived in middle fall are born. Chipmunks come out to play and mate. Rabbits are breeding in the bushes.
Feb. 24: After the benign days of February’s third week that often force snowdrops and aconites into bloom, the chilly Feb. 24 cold front almost always brings a brief Snowdrop Winter. Tomorrow’s full moon is almost certain to intensify the cold.
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