Beneath this sense of cold’s enormity is an equally strong sense of its ability to make us sensitive to one another, to ourselves, to our world.
— Susan Felch
For the Third Week of Early Winter
Moon Time: The Bedding Plant Moon waxes throughout the week, entering its second phase at 4:20 a.m. on December 26.
Sun Time: Between the 19th and the 25th, the day’s length remains steady at about nine hours 20 minutes for most of the region, the shortest span of the year.
Planet Time: If you are awake before dawn, check the eastern sky for Mars and Jupiter, the morning stars.
Star Time: Except for the unusual star that shone down on Bethlehem, the sky of midnight on Christmas Eve is almost the same as the one seen by shepherds two thousand years ago: Orion due south, Leo with its brilliant Regulus in the east and the Great Square in the far west, the Milky Way dividing the heavens from the southeast to the northwest.
Weather Time: The December 25 Front: The Christmas cold front is one of the most consistent highs of the entire year, bearing precipitation five years in 10. It is typically followed by some of the brightest days of December. Travel and transport of livestock is recommended as this weather system moves east but before the arrival of the New Year’s front.
The December 31/January 1 Front: The first full moon and lunar perigee of 2018 (a Supermoon), arrives with precipitation and cold as the year begins.
Zeitgebers: Events in Nature that Tell the Time of Year: Milder December weather may open pussy willows and draw up snowdrops, crocus and aconites as the days expand, but along the Gulf of Mexico, the Sun is already shortening the dormancy of trees and shrubs, hurrying the gestation of spring. Across coastal Georgia, sweet gums and yellow poplars finally lose their leaves, and their buds swell almost immediately to replace the loss. In central Florida, red maples open, and Jessamine produces its yellow blossoms.
Farm and Garden Time: Collards and kale, and well mulched carrots and beets can survive to this point in the season, but January’s cold spells eventually take them. Indoors, however, tomato and pepper plants, seeded in middle summer and brought inside before frost, should be continuing to produce fruit in a south window. Basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme and oregano may also be doing well.
In the warmth of greenhouses, bedding plant seeding is fully underway, and some young plants scheduled to be sold in April and May have four to six leaves by now.
Marketing Time: Continue your marketing plan right into 2018. January 7 is Epiphany Sunday (Three Kings Day): Many Christians celebrate this feast with a fine meal and religious services. Milk-fed lambs are often in demand for this market. Three Kings Day is also a traditional time of gift giving for many families. And plan to take advantage of the “hothouse market,” a winter period during which to market your fall lambs that are nine to 16 weeks old and weigh between 20 to 50 pounds.
Mind and Body Time: Mark the deepest entry of the Sun through one of your south windows today. A pencil mark on the floor or wall will provide a comforting measure of the advance of spring as the sunlight recedes (as the Sun grows higher in the sky) during the months ahead - not only in your home, but in all of North America. Even though you can’t control the weather or what happens in nature, you can at least follow along, keeping your finger literally on path of the Sun in your private observatory.
Creature Time (for fishing, hunting, feeding, bird watching): The moon is overhead (its most favorable position for hunting and fishing) in the afternoon this week. The most productive days should be those before the December 25 front. The days prior to the arrival of that front will also milder, and will be less likely to freeze (and damage) the carcasses of your fish and game. Precipitation, however, could complicate your outings. White-tailed bucks in gray winter coats drop their antlers as the old year comes to an end; see if you can find them. And dieters should plan to have a balanced snack at about 3:30 p.m. and a moderate early dinner in order to keep lunar influence under control.
The fallen leaves are coming apart now, letting go of their shapes, dissolving back into the ground. I can’t tell a box elder from a maple or an Osage or mulberry leaf. The leaves accept the rain, their resilience turned to receptivity by the freezing and thawing. Their surfaces have become porous and absorbent, sometimes skeletal, letting all the weather through, offering no resistance.
On the north side of my home, the ferns have fallen across the hostas, providing a mantle of protective mulch. Amaranth is bowing to set its seeds, the weakening of the stalk contributing to the planting. Black pokeberries dangle on their soft, dried stems. Snapdragons finally succumb to the cold, their foliage dark green with the freeze. Japanese honeysuckle leaves are blackening. Foxtail grasses cling to one another, waving in the wind. The crisp zinnias bob and sway.
OTHER POOR WILL’S ALMANACK COLUMNS
Poor Will’s Almanack for 2018 is now 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 sites.