Poor Will’s Clark County Almanack: Silage cutting begins

The scents of a late summer night are sweet and evocative. I sink into them as into a cool, northern lake. To tread on bergamot or gill-over-the-ground in the darkness is to be instantly enveloped in spicy sweetness…. The off fungal smell of mushroom shouldering up through the soil prickles in our nostrils, unmistakable and indescribable. We sniff like bears. — Cathy Johnson

After the cool front of Aug. 10, rain is infrequent, and Aug. 12, 13 and 14 are historically three of the driest days of late summer. Those three days are also the sunniest of the week. Chances for precipitation increase to 25 percent on the 15th, and to 40 percent by the 18th, with the percentage of cloud cover growing with the rain.

This is the week that summer actually begins to recede. It is measurable first in the likelihood for early morning lows in the 40s (a 10 percent chance now exists for such cold through the rest of the month).

Last week, chances for 90s were steady about 40 percent. Suddenly, those chances are reduced by half, and Aug. 17 is the last day of the year on which a high of 100 degrees is still reasonable to expect. This shift to autumn often goes unnoticed, since highs in the 80s continue to dominate the afternoons. Brisk highs in the 60s, however, occur five percent of the days on record.

Lunar phase and lore

On Aug. 18, the Katydid Moon becomes full at 4:27 a.m., but lunar position in the mild second quarter throughout most of the period, augurs well for vacationers, police persons, health care workers and all public service employees. Plant for late-autumn greens and peas in Capricorn on the 13th through the 16th. Fish in the evening, when the waxing moon lies above you.

Natural calendar

Aug. 12: This is the time that spiders in the woods weave their final webs. The katydids now chant through the night. Cicadas fill the afternoons.

Aug. 13: Morning fogs are thickening as the night air cools more often into the 50s.

Aug. 14: Grackle activity increases while cardinal song becomes less frequent. The early morning robins are silent. Whip-poor-wills, cedar waxwings, and catbirds follow the signs toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Aug. 15: Buckeye leaves are browning under the high canopy. Scarlet has appeared in the sumac, Virginia creeper, and poison ivy. Ash, wild grape, redbud and cottonwood can be yellowing from the heat.

Aug. 16: Elderberries are ready for wine. It is high bloom for velvetleaf, jimsonweed, prickly mallow, wild lettuce, ironweed and wingstem, but teasel and tall bellflower time is over.

Aug. 17: Signs of fall coming include rows of lanky great mulleins black and gone to seed, pokeweed the size of small trees with purple stalks and berries, the panicled dogwood with white fruit and leaves fading pink, trefoils decaying, staghorns dark brown above their slightly red or yellow leaves.

Aug. 18: Grackles become louder in the afternoons now, but an entire morning can go by without a cardinal song or the sound of a dove.

Average blooming dates

Aug. 13: Tall Goldenrod

Aug. 14: Rose Pink

Field and garden

Aug. 12: Seed the lawn, and band seed alfalfa. Smooth brome grass, orchard grass and timothy are also good crops for August planting.

Aug. 13: The first ears of field corn are mature by today and at least a third of the crop is in dent. Some green acorns are falling into the buckets of acorn roasters.

Aug. 14: Divide and transplant lilies-of-the-valley. Soybean foliage is turning; and the flowers have set their pods. This is an average date for corn silage harvest to begin.

Aug. 15: Scout fields for late-season pests, for larval feeding scars, a sign of rootworm damage, second brood corn borer, second generation of bean leaf beetles, and rootworm beetles.

Aug. 16: Collect the final bouquets of Queen Anne's lace before all the petals darken.

Aug. 17: This is a pivotal date for the first frosts in the West and North. Snow is often reported in Canada near this date, and the countdown to frost time begins for the Midwest.

Aug. 18: Continue to check gourds, pumpkins and winter squash for rot.


The pieces of late summer fall into place. The heat stays, but the rhythm has shifted, the tones have been altered, colors and sounds and scents all pointing to September. Cottonwood leaves are becoming pale at a number of locations. In the park, black walnut, sumac, wild grape, sycamore, elm, box elder, and redbud are turning yellow. The katydids, which started to sing last week in my neighborhood, are in full chorus after dark. The cicadas have finally all come out and fill the afternoons.

The smell of the wind is becoming more pungent, sweeter, sharper as the vegetation evolves. Almost all the observations in my natural history journal point toward fall. The notes and the actual changes accumulate until summer disappears, and a new season of new pieces emerges.

Almanack news

Send your observations to Poor Will's Almanack at P.O. Box 431, Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387 or to wlfelker@gmail.com.

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