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Views and opinions: End of year arrives with cold and precipitation, so prepare

Dec. 18-24, 2017

Beneath this sense of cold’s enormity is an equally strong sense of its ability to make us sensitive to one another, to ourselves, to our world.

-Susan Felch

Almanac horoscope

Moon time: On Dec. 18, the Bedding Plant Moon is new at 1:30 a.m. and at apogee (its position furthest from Earth). It waxes throughout the week, entering its second phase at 4:20 a.m. on Dec. 26.

Sun time: Winter solstice occurs at 11:28 a.m. on Dec. 21. The sun enters the deep winter constellation of Capricorn on the same day.

Planet time: If you are awake before dawn, check the eastern sky for Mars and Jupiter, the morning stars.

Star time: Except for the unusual star that shone down on Bethlehem, the sky of midnight on Christmas Eve is almost the same as the one seen by shepherds 2,000 years ago: Orion due south, Leo with its brilliant Regulus in the east and the Great Square in the far west and the Milky Way dividing the heavens from the southeast to the northwest.

Weather time

The Christmas cold front is one of the most consistent highs of the entire year, bearing precipitation five years in 10. It is typically followed by some of the brightest days of December. Travel and transport of livestock is recommended, as this weather system moves east, but before the arrival of the New Year’s front.

The Dec. 31-Jan. 1 front: The first full moon and lunar perigee of 2018 (a Supermoon) arrives with precipitation and cold as the year begins.

Zeitgebers (events in nature that tell the time of year): Milder December weather may open pussy willows and draw up snowdrops, crocus and aconites as the days expand, but along the Gulf of Mexico, the sun is already shortening the dormancy of trees and shrubs, hurrying the gestation of spring.

Across coastal Georgia, sweet gums and yellow poplars finally lose their leaves, and their buds swell almost immediately to replace the loss. In central Florida, red maples open and Jessamine produces its yellow blossoms.

Farm and garden time

Collards and kale, and well-mulched carrots and beets, can survive to this point in the season, but January’s cold spells eventually take them. Indoors, however, tomato and pepper plants, seeded in middle summer and brought inside before frost, should be continuing to produce fruit in a south window.

Basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme and oregano may also be doing well. In the warmth of greenhouses, bedding plant seeding is fully underway, and some young plants scheduled to be sold in April and May have 4-6 leaves by now.

Marketing time: Continue your marketing plan right into 2018. Jan. 7 is Epiphany Sunday (Three-Kings Day); many Christians celebrate this feast with a fine meal and religious services. Milk-fed lambs are often in demand for this market. Three Kings Day is also a traditional time of gift-giving for many families.

And plan to take advantage of the “hothouse market,” a winter period during which to market your fall lambs that are 9-16 weeks old and weigh between 20-50 pounds.

Mind and body time: Mark the deepest entry of the sun through one of your south windows today. A pencil mark on the floor or wall will provide a comforting measure of the advance of spring as the sunlight recedes (as the sun grows higher in the sky) during the months ahead – not only in your home, but in all of North America.

Even though you can’t control the weather or what happens in nature, you can at least follow along, keeping your finger literally on path of the sun in your private observatory.

Creature time (for fishing, hunting, feeding, bird-watching): The moon is overhead (its most favorable position for hunting and fishing) in the afternoon this week. The most productive days should be those before the Dec. 25 front. The days prior to the arrival of that front will also milder, and will be less likely to freeze (and damage) the carcasses of your fish and game.

Precipitation, however, could complicate your outings. Whitetail bucks in gray winter coats drop their antlers as the old year comes to an end; see if you can find them. And dieters should plan to have a balanced snack at about 3:30 p.m. and a moderate early dinner in order to keep lunar influence under control.

Almanac classics

Frightening Experience at Christmas

The school year 1939-40 was a memorable one for me. I was in the third grade at the Bowersville, Ohio, school. All 12 grades were in the same building.

One morning, we were bused to Xenia to hear a symphony orchestra. The music had a lasting impression on me. And at Christmas time, the high school acted out Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I was genuinely scared of the ghosts of Marley, and Christmas Past, Present and Future.

But the most frightening experience happened one day, unexpectedly. A high school girl came into our third grade room and spoke with our teacher, Miss Vanami, and left. A few moments passed, and then our teacher said, “Clarence, you are to go upstairs to the superintendent’s office.”

A murmur rippled through the class. I stepped into the hall and the girl was waiting. She escorted me up the long flight of stairs to the second floor and the office. I was really frightened, much more so than of the ghosts in the Christmas play. There were rumors circulating that there was a paddling machine in the office!

The superintendent, Mr. Alfred, greeted me warmly with a big smile and asked me to sit down. (So far, so good.) Then he said, “Clarence, I hear that you have lost your dog.”

I said, “Yes, he was run over by a car.”

He said, “Well, I have found you a new puppy.”

Oh, I was greatly relieved! Then he told me to ask my parents about the puppy. I couldn’t wait to get home from school to tell them.

I got the puppy and named him Mickey. He was a spaniel mix that grew into a fine, affectionate dog that I had for years.