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Views and opinions: Berries ripening as aroma of cut hay fills the spring breeze


May 21-27, 2018

The days and months are long

the world is vast

and idleness is happiness

-Kuan Han-ch'ing (c. 1250 A.D.)

Almanac horoscope

The Daddy Longlegs Moon, entering its second quarter on May 22 at 10:49 p.m., becomes totally full at 9:19 a.m. on May 29. Rising in the evening and setting before dawn, this moon passes overhead throughout the night.

The sun climbs past a declination of 21 degrees, 54 minutes by the end of May, a little more than 90 percent of the way to solstice. These are the longest days of the year – the sun is above the horizon 15 out of each 24 hours.

Jupiter, remaining in Libra, moves into the far southwest during the early morning in the first days of May; then reappears as an evening star in the southeast by the middle of the month.

At 10 o'clock at night, Virgo is due south and bright Arcturus, the largest star in the central sky, is almost overhead. When you go outside before dawn, you’ll see the Milky Way above you and the Great Square moving in from the East, fertile Pisces right behind it. To the far west, the spring planting star, Arcturus, is the brightest setting star.

The Eta Aquarids are still active through May 28. Look for them in the east before dawn.

June is one of the major pivot months in the year, the time when the canopy of leaves closes overhead throughout the entire country. Now there is no denying that summer is here and that we are at the center of the natural cycle of the seasons.

The body, which has been conditioned for thousands of years to plant, reap, hunt and fish during the warm months in order to prepare for the colder months, may be sending you some pretty strong messages now. If you aren’t farming or gardening, and you don’t have a stake in the summer months, you may feel tremendously restless or dissatisfied.

Take an hour or so and write down your feelings. Listen to your body. See what it tells you. This may be a good time to make plans to go back to school in the fall, find a new job or move to a different part of the country.

Weather trends

The last of spring’s 23 cool fronts arrives on May 24, typically preceded by rain. This high-pressure system is usually the last frost-bearing front to northern gardens, and the days following its arrival are unseasonably cold one year out of three. After its passage, the chances for frost fall to almost nothing.

Unstable meteorological conditions are likely to precede the month’s last cold front on May 29, especially since the moon will be full near its arrival. Rain is often heavy as the final front of May approaches, and the full moon of May 29 increases the likelihood of storms.

The natural calendar: This is the time when the smell of cut hay fills the countryside, when strawberries, cherries and wild black raspberries ripen. Fireflies glow in the yard. Red, white and yellow clovers flower. Pie cherries, mulberries and black raspberries are ready to pick. The fat moon should make them extra juicy.

Pollen from grasses reaches its peak as bluegrass, orchard grass, timothy, red top and Bermuda grass all continue to flower.

Climbing roses and tea roses open before Japanese beetle season begins. When you see your first rose, look for wild parsnips and yellow sweet clover in the fields, poison hemlock in the wetlands, pink spirea and privet bushes blooming in town, catalpas and panicled dogwoods flowering beside them, river willows and angelica blossoming near the rivers and poison ivy blooming in the woods.

Field and garden

Fertilize asparagus and rhubarb as their seasons end. Sidedress the corn. Blackberries and wild black raspberries are blooming along roadsides of the lower Midwest. That is when sunflowers are in full bloom in California, and spring wheat and oats are just about all planted in the North.

When you see nettles waist-high, then check the garden for cutworms. And when Canadian thistles start to bud, check for alfalfa weevils, armyworms and corn borers in the field. When you hear spring crickets sing, look for leafhoppers in the garden and snapping turtle eggs along the rivers.

Marketing notes: Id al Fitr, the close of the Ramadan fast, occurs on June 14, and the demand for halal meat may rise for shepherds and goatherds.

Fish, game, insects, livestock and birds: The evening offers the best lunar conditions for fishing as the week begins. When the barometer drops in advance of the May 29 and June 2 cool fronts, expect even more angling success in the mornings.

Most warblers have flown north by this time of the month, and almost all other spring migrants have either arrived or have passed through the area. Spring turkey hunting closes throughout much of the region; update your turkey journal, noting which dates and weather conditions were the most successful.

Heat stress can slow the rate of gain in livestock. Protection from the weather, plenty of water and adequate feed and supplements may help to reduce weight loss.

Almanac classics

The Best Mother

I grew up on a farm, and my mom always set her own hens to hatch her baby chicks. She would usually set 10 or 12 hens with 15 eggs each. We had this little bantam hen who showed signs she wanted to set, so Mom gave her seven or eight regular hen eggs this one and only year.

My job was to help Mom get our chickens coops ready. We had a little wood wagon with iron wheels we used to move our coops in the barnyard closest to the house.

These coops had been made by my dad from scrap boards. The roofs on them was slanted from front to back and covered with tin so they wouldn’t leak. The floors for them were loose boards sawed to fit each coop. A large stone was placed on the top of each coop so it wouldn’t blow over.

So this year a coop had to be made for Mrs. Bantam and her brood. My brother made a coop for her out of a wooden box. When the day came to put the baby chicks out, Mrs. Bantam’s coop was placed in the middle of the line of coops. A small opening door was in the front of each coop, and for a few days a brick was put in the door to keep the hens in but allow the little ones to go out.

Later a small piece of twine string fastened to a nail on the coop was tied to one leg of each hen to keep her close by. It wasn’t too long before they got their freedom to venture out. It’s hard to believe, but these hens always knew which coop was hers and which chicks were hers.

Mom always went out as dark was nearing to shut up the coops with a board and the brick as a precaution from varmints. This one particular hot night, she decided to check some of the coops and found out some of the hens didn’t have all of their chicks under them.

In checking Mrs. Bantam, she found that the little hen had “clucked” into her coop all of the missing chicks. Mom said she was “full to capacity.” What a wonderful little mother hen she was!

I am now 88 years old, and this is one of my many cherished memories from my childhood.

(This story originally appeared in “Poor Will’s Almanack” on August 28, 2008.)