Yet still on every side we trace the hand
Of Winter in the land,
Save where the maple reddens on the lawn,
Flushed by the season’s dawn.
— Henry Timrod
The Ducks-Scouting-for-Nests Moon waxes throughout the period, entering its second quarter on February 23 at 3:09 a.m. It grows in strength as the month comes to a close, reaching perigee at 9:48 a.m. on February 27 and becoming full on March 1 at 8:51 p.m., almost a pure Supermoon! Rising in the afternoon and setting in the morning, this waxing Moon passes overhead throughout the night.
The Sun: The night has shortened by 90 minutes through the space of the last 60 days, and the speed of the change reaches real spring levels in Clark County, a gain of 70 minutes occurring between February 18 and equinox. The sun, which took 60 days to travel the first half of the way to equinox, suddenly doubles its speed, completing the second half of the journey in only 32 days.
The Planets: Jupiter and Mars remain the morning stars this week.
The Stars: By this week of the year, Orion moves into the western sky before midnight, reinforcing the other signs of Early Spring. Find Sirius, the Dog Star, shining along the southern horizon, the brightest light in the heavens (except for the setting Moon and Procyon).
The Shooting Stars: No major meteor showers occur this week.
Weather Trends: Snowdrop Winter arrives around the 24th, often one of the windiest days of the month, and colder temperatures typically return for up to 72 hours. While 50s and 60s each come five percent of the time, and 40s are recorded 35 to 40 percent of the years, highs only in the 20s or 30s occur the remaining 50 percent, and chances for a high in the teens appear for the last time this season. Snow falls 35 percent of the years on the 24th, and five years in ten on the 25th. But the 25th is also the last day that chances for snow get so high. Full Moon on March 1 so close to perigee (on February 27) creates lunar conditions that strengthen the first cold front of March, increasing the likelihood of snow in Clark County, bringing March in like a lion.
The Natural Calendar: Pussy willows are the calendar of Early Spring. Even in the coldest years, pussy willows squeeze out by the first week of March. They open well before the weedy henbit, partial to around a dozen thaw days, maybe five or six afternoons in the upper 40s, one or two near 60, and about three warm rains. The catkins generally reach their prime when crocuses bloom, and woolly bear caterpillars come out from winter hibernation.
Pussy willow time is also the time that clover and wild violet leaves start to grow; horseradish stretches out to an inch or two, and red rhubarb unfolds in the sun. Honeysuckle buds unravel on the lowest branches. Bleeding hearts are pushing their heads from the ground as daylily foliage reaches to the top of your boots, and white snow trillium blossoms appear in the bottomlands.
Fish, Game, Livestock and Birds: Continue to keep plenty of lukewarm water available for your chickens when temperatures fall below freezing. And pigs, like people, sometimes catch cold if exposed to radical temperature changes—the kind of changes that occur quickly in late February and early March. If the weather is mild, however, honeybees and carpenter bees collect pollen from dandelions, red maples, white clover and chickweed. Fish are more active feeders as the water temperature warms, and they may be most active with the moon overhead as the barometer falls in advance of February’s last cold wave.
In the Field and Garden: Do late pruning on colder afternoons. Spread fertilizer after testing the soil. Graft and repot houseplants. Dig fence post holes while the ground is soft and wet. Put in oats or ryegrass for quick vegetative cover. Seed and fertilize the lawn. Lunar perigee, combined with full Moon, should pull the maple sap into pails throughout the country.
Marketing Notes: April 1 is Roman Easter: Newly weaned, milk-fed lambs and kids, weighing about 25 to 45 pounds and not older than three months, are sold for this market. April 8 is Orthodox Easter: Animals for this market can be a little bit bigger than the Roman Easter lambs and kids.
New Year’s Day for immigrants from Cambodia, Thailand and Laos is celebrated between April 13 and 15. The Asian market often favors animals in the 60 to 80-pound live-weight range.
The Almanack Horoscope: Even though Early Spring promises milder conditions in the month ahead, lunar perigee this week, combined with full Moon on March 1, reduces the likelihood of good weather as it increases the chances for seasonal affective disorder.
February 28, 1993: Sun, high-pressure system peaking, the last of the high winter tides. Cardinals, crows, starlings, sparrows, doves strong this morning. From Jacksonville, Florid, Jeni says some of the trees in her protected courtyard are leafing out; the canopy through the city, though, hasn’t started to fill in. Outside here in the snow, a couple of rabbits have left tracks across the yard, and a mouse, burrowing out from under a drift by the stone rose fence, has explored all the way to the house and back. At the park, I was able to walk through the cattail swamp for first time across the ice. The afternoon was quiet except for a kingfisher west toward the river, an occasional crow, the tapping of a woodpecker. A half-dozen sparrows were hopping in and around the shallow water of the swamp, finding seeds or insects among the cress plants. Despite the whiteness and the snow, there was no sense of winter; the air was mild and the sun hot.
OTHER POOR WILL’S ALMANACK COLUMNS
Poor Will’s Almanack for 2018 is still available. Order yours from Amazon, or, for an autographed copy, order from www.poorwillsalmanack.com. You can also purchase Bill Felker’s new book of essays, “Home is the Prime Meridian,” from those websites.