Poor Will’s Miami Valley Almanack

Third week of late spring

We looked far across the valley, to the green fields and the green of woodlands and the shadow of valleys. The air vibrated with birdsong, which is the great rhythm made palpable to the ear. All the senses tingled, alive with the season as the world itself is alive. Nothing was impossible. High achievement was all around us, beating on every one of our senses for recognition. - Hal Borland

In the Sky

Cassiopeia has moved deep into the northern night sky behind Polaris, the north star, by this time of May, and Cepheus, which looks a little like a house lying on its side, is beginning to come around to the east of Polaris. When Cepheus is due east of the North Star at night, then it will be the middle of July. When it lies due south of Polaris, then the leaves will be turning. When it lies due west of Polaris, it will be the middle of Deep Winter.

The Eta Aquarid meteors are active from April 18 through May 28, with the most meteors expected on May 5 and 6.

The Moons of May

May 1: The Tadpole Moon enters its final quarter.

May 7: The Honeybee Swarming Moon is new.

May 15: The moon enters its second quarter.

May 23: The moon is full.

May 30: The moon enters its final quarter.

Weather Trends

An average day in this period brings rain 25 to 40 percent of the time. The mid-May cool front and the next two high-pressure systems are often followed by the Strawberry Rains, the wettest time of May in the lower Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic states. Typical highs almost always reach above 60 degrees after May 10, and they rise to 70 or above at least 60 percent of the afternoons. Full moon is likely to strengthen the cold front due between May 15 and 23. Be ready to protect tender plantings from frost.

The Natural Calendar

Clustered snakeroot season starts in the new shade. Eastern wood pewees arrive. Northern spring field crickets hatch in milder years.

At least a third of the region’s goslings have been born. They will have all emerged by the end of the month. Fledgling grackles, sparrows and cardinals are leaving their nests and are begging for food in the honeysuckles. Goslings and ducklings swim the rivers. Lake carp and pond koi are mating.

The high canopy suddenly fills in. Flowering locust trees join mock orange, honeysuckle and late lilacs to create the most fragrant time of the throughout the central portion of the United States. Under the closing canopy, spring’s garlic mustard, chickweed and catchweed die back, their yellow foliage accentuating a major decline of Middle Spring growth.

Bullfrogs call all along the rivers. Catfish, bullheads, northern pike, bluegills, largemouth and smallmouth bass, white bass, spotted bass, striped bass and crappies spawn when the water temperature reaches about 65 degrees.

Countdown to Summer

  • Just one week to strawberry pie
  • Two weeks until the first orange daylilies blossom
  • Three weeks until roses flower
  • Four weeks until the first mulberries are sweet for picking and cottonwood cotton drifts in the wind.
  • Five weeks until wild black raspberries ripen
  • Six weeks until fledgling robins peep in the bushes and fireflies mate in the night.
  • Seven weeks until cicadas chant in the hot and humid days
  • Eight weeks until thistles turn to down
  • Nine weeks until sycamore bark starts to fall, marking the center of Deep Summer
  • Ten weeks to the season of singing crickets and katydids after dark

In the Field and Garden

Orchard grass is heading, and a little alfalfa is budding. This is the center of pepper, cantaloupe, and cucumber planting, and the quarter mark for soybean seeding.

In the wood lots, eastern tent caterpillars are defoliating the cherry trees. Spittlebugs appear on pine trees, azalea mites on azaleas, cankerworms on elms and maples, lace bugs on the mountain ash. Cutworms begin to attack many field and garden crops. Weevils build up in alfalfa. Flea beetles are in the corn. Bagworms and powdery mildew can be attacking the wheat.

Commercial sunflower planting time begins as the chances or a light freeze fall well below five percent along the 40th Parallel.

May 15 is a good target date for having fields planted in order to avoid a serious delay in seeding (as well as to take advantage of moisture for seed sprouting).

The Allergy Index

Pollen from flowering trees usually peaks about May 10, but trees continue to be the major source of pollen in the air until grass pollen replaces it in the third week of the month. Mold counts often decline after the Strawberry Rains.

Estimated Pollen Count: (On a scale of 0 - 700 grains per cubic meter)

  • May 10: 500
  • May 20: 250
  • May 31: 100

Estimated Mold Count: (On a scale of 0 - 7,000 grains per cubic meter)

  • May 15: 1,100
  • May 20: 250
  • May 25: 150
  • May 31: 100


It was a cold, damp morning of Early Summer, and a wave of a summer depression, the aftermath of a night of bad dreams, overwhelmed me. The night’s residue, combined with the he dreariness of the gray day for a moment overpowered me so that I felt sick at heart. Lost and disoriented, I retreated to the woods with Bella, the family border collie.

Bella cared nothing about dreams or gloom. Her limbic brain was far wiser than my less balanced cerebrum. We wandered deep into the preserve along the river, and with her good example and the endorphins spawned by walking, my illness lifted like a fog in the sun.

As for virtue and the past, Bella’s lack of guile, her trust and focus, were my best guides. Even though no part of the night’s residual images might ever be erased or even forgiven, resolution was waiting as I followed the dog along the path, and the magnitude of my morning terror was transformed by a simple therapy.

Phantoms and chemistry might have sickened me, but health was only on the other side of this sycamore or that euonymus. The mind was as fickle as the sky and the woods. There was no eternal spring, no unchanging purity, no perfect, transcendent glade.

Knowing my tendency toward poor judgment, I recognized once again that a second or third life would simply offer me the chance to commit different, not fewer errors. How many times had I come to that conclusion? Each time the haunting dreams occurred, the question was the same. Each time, the answer was the same.

On this particular day, regret was easily dissolved by Bella’s focus on the present. The impeccable limbic vision of my border collie reassured me that life still held seductive secrets. Everything was, indeed, in front of me if I would only use my time well. All that I could ever ask for lay within the borders of the bottomland.

Bill Felker lives with his wife in Yellow Springs. His “Poor Will’s Almanack” airs on his weekly NPR radio segment on WYSO-FM (91.3).

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