There had been other signs of the turn of the seasons: the faint odor of skunk in the air…. And the stench of the cattail marsh….. It was a smell like the aroma of the skunk; overpoweringly sweet, penetrating and impossible to get rid of. And then in the distance could be heard the sound of a flock of blackbirds arriving, a rustling sound like the wind in the leaves of the cottonwood
— Paul Gruchow, Journal of a Prairie Year
The Frolicking Fox Moon, entering its last quarter on February 7, wanes into apogee (its position farthest from Earth) on February 11, and it then becomes the new Ducks-Scouting-for-Nests Moon at 4:05 p.m. on February 15. Rising after midnight and setting in the afternoon, this Moon passes overhead (its most influential position) in the morning.
The Sun: The pace of spring quickens as the sun reaches 40 percent of the way to equinox by February 12. On that day, sunset is almost an hour later than it was at winter solstice. Sunrise is a little more than half an hour earlier.
The Planets: Jupiter and Mars remain the morning stars this week.
The Stars: Traveling with Jupiter and Mars, find Cygnus, the Swan (shaped like a cross) quite close to them, forecasting summer (since it is part of the Summer Triangle of stars).
The Shooting Stars: No major meteor showers occur this week.
Weather Trends: The 11th ushers in the third major cold wave of the month, and this is typically the last severe front of winter for Clark Couty. By the 14th, chances for highs in the 20s or below fall to only ten percent, and by the 15th, chances for spring warmth above 50 degrees jump to 40 percent per day — the highest so far this year. This change is so dramatic on local weather charts, that it can easily be called the beginning of Early Spring — a six-week period of changeable conditions during which milder weather gradually overwhelms the cold. This year, however, the new Moon on February 15 is likely to delay the arrival of that season.
The Natural Calendar: Markers of Early Spring include the sporadic blooming of dandelions in sunnier lawns, the increasing activity of water striders and small moths on warmer days, the running of maple sap (as new Moon and Early Spring arrive together), the nesting of cardinals, the nighttime mating of salamanders in shallow pools, the courtship of raccoons. Other important steps in the progress of the month include the first wasp and the first fly investigating the warmth of a south wall.
Fish, Game, Livestock and Birds: Doves begin mating calls before dawn, joining the titmice and the cardinals. Red-winged blackbirds migrate north to the wetlands. Striped bass often start to bite (more than likely with the Moon overhead in the morning as the barometer falls before the cold fronts of February 11 and 15). Schedule routine livestock maintenance and foot clipping before new Moon (on the 15th). Clip your fingernails in preparation for lambing and kidding. As Early Spring approaches later this month, watch for your mare to come into estrus.
In the Field and Garden: Under the dark Moon, spray trees with dormant oil when temperatures rise into the upper 30s or 40s. In garden ponds, algae is growing thicker, a sign that thaws accumulate in water as well as in the soil. Purchase seeds and prepare landscaping, garden and field maps, including plans for double cropping, intercropping and companion planting.
Marketing Notes: February 16 is Tet, Vietnamese New Year and Chinese New Year (the Year of the Dog): The Chinese market is often strong throughout the winter, favoring sheep and goats (but not dogs!) in the 70-pound live-weight range. And plan ahead to serve the graduation cookout market. College graduations can start as early as the first week in April and extend into the middle of June.
The Almanack Horoscope: The waning Moon, reaching apogee on February 11 has dissipated all the power that it held almost two weeks ago. Seasonal stress is likely to lighten because of weakening lunar position, contributing to increased chances for optimism and cheer. Even though clouds often continue to deprive the human brain of the benefits of sunlight, the length of the day complements the slowly improving temperatures, and the Seasonal Affective Disorder Index dips more frequently into the moderate (but still troubling) 50s and 60s (out of a possible 100) when the Moon lies in its weaker phases.
February 11, 2017: Warm in the middle 60s today, more hellebores in bloom (several white hellebore blossoms spreading their petals wide), more snowdrops fully open. The first snow crocus, five violet ones, opened under Janet’s redbud tree. (I had transplanted them by accident with the hydrangea last fall – and then here they were the first of the year!)
I found one peony spear up a full inch. One chickweed flower seen, and the ground was greening with more chickweed and the basal foliage of bittercress and creeping Charley. Returning from Cincinnati (where it was at least 70), I saw a late winter murmuration of starlings swooping across and around the freeway. In John Bryan State Park, someone had set up pails to collect maple sap.
From the edge of town, Mary Sue wrote: ”Just had a bunch of red wing blackbirds at our feeders, really early this year!” The photo she sent with her note showed only female red wings (along with some starlings). That should mean that the males are already here setting territories.
OTHER POOR WILL’S ALMANACK COLUMNS
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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.