Poor Will’s Almanack: Pick the first mulberries

The scriptures of nature can be read in their original versions, untranslated by religions, unedited, unabridged. This is the universe’s university. The voices of nature echo along its corridors, and in them are truths that have inspired the genius of every age. — Ken Carey

As the May 20 front moves across Clark County, it often makes May 18 and 19 two of the wettest days of the Strawberry Rains. After that front has gone east to West Virginia, temperatures warm up, but skies sometimes remain cloudy through the arrival of the May 24 cold front. Even though more than half of May 25ths and 26ths are in the 70s or 80s, a full 40 percent are not, giving them the most potential for chilly conditions since the 15th.

Lunar phase and lore

The Mulberry Moon waxes through its second quarter and becomes completely full at 12:24 a.m. on May 22. Rising in the evening, and setting after in the morning, the gibbous second-quarter moon will be overhead in the night.

After supper before the arrival of the May 20 and 24 cool fronts should be the best fishing time this week. Planting is favored before full moon under Scorpio, May 20 – 21.

Natural calendar

May 20: Tall meadow rue is knee high now in the wetlands and fields, pacing the angelica.

May 21: In the rivers, lizard’s tail has three leaves. July’s wood nettle is a foot tall. Deep red ginger has replaced the toad trillium close to the ground around the small open fingers of white sedum.

May 22: Wild strawberries wander, bright yellow, through the purple ivy and the sticky catchweed.

May 23: Cottonwood trees are in bloom, seeds floating through the countryside. Fawn births peak as the wild roses fade.

May 24: Bottlegrass is fresh and sweet for chewing.

May 25: A few mulberries are ready to pick.

May 26: Pollen from grasses reaches its peak in the central portions of the United States, as bluegrass, orchard grass, timothy, red top and Bermuda grass all continue to flower.

Average blooming dates

May 20: Blue-Eyed Grass, Corn Salad

May 21: Catalpa, Pink Spirea, Wild Parsnip

May 22: Privet, River Willow, Smooth Solomon’s Seal

May 23: Astilbe, Panicled Dogwood, Poison Hemlock, Angelica, Birdsfoot Trefoil

May 24: Japanese Honeysuckle, Motherwort, Multiflora Rose

May 25: Tree of Heaven, Yarrow, Curley Dock

May 26: Poison Ivy, White Campion, Common Cinquefoil

Field and garden

May 20: Armyworms and corn borers are at work.

May 21: Intensify vegetable and flower planting before full moon.

May 22: Thistles are taller than your boots in the pasture.

May 23: Processing tomato transplanting is usually three-fourths finished as poison hemlock blooms by the roadsides. Watch for frost at full moon; this moon will be the final one of the first half of the year to bring the slight threat of a freeze.

May 24: Soybeans are half planted, a third sprouted.

May 25: Almost half the winter wheat has headed up, and more than 15 percent of the alfalfa hay has been cut.

May 26: Slugs are a problem in wet no-till fields, and alfalfa weevil infestations become more common in the alfalfa.


Events in nature generally occur in a fixed sequence, based on precipitation, the declination of the sun, and the effects of warm or cold days. And, usually, if something happens once, it will happen again.

Now certainly history, as well as daily life, are full with events that did not or cannot happen again. On the other hand, neither human nor beast, fish nor fowl, would venture out into a world in which repetition did not occur. Frozen by uncertainty and unknowing, no creature would risk its existence in constant novelty. Observation would make no sense. Who could draw conclusions from what occurs if the occurrence could not be repeated? Scientific method would implode. To the observer, matter would be an endless string of isolated, unreferenced, linear constructs, formed by the witness-mind.

Comforted and encouraged by patterns of repetition, however, we can make sense, shaping a universe rich in experiences which never occur in isolation, which are the sum of their parts and which are then enhanced and defended and actually created by salutary recurrence. And so although not every event reoccurs, meaning or sense in both human life and nature is dependent on events that do reoccur.

Almanack news

Send your observations to Poor Will’s Almanack at P.O. Box 431, Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387 or to wlfelker@gmail.com. As space permits, I will include your notes (with first names only) in The Almanack News section of this column. Nothing is too small to report, but not all reports will be used in this paper.