Printer Friendly

Poor Will's Almanac for Autumn of 2005.

Eventually I saw that watching the seasons not only helped me make connections between one natural event and another, but also trained me to discover relationships between natural events and my own emotions as well as between the condition of my farm and my state of mind and soul. Phenology--the study of sequence and synchronicity in nature--was a matter of metaphysics as much as physics and botany, I decided, and its possibilities began to open out before me like a broad and deep psychic sea.

--Bradford Townsend

Astronomical data for September

The phases of the Monarch Butterfly Moon and the Goldenrod Moon

Varieties of goldenrod come into bloom from middle summer well into September, depending on the year and location. By now, the soybeans are beginning to turn yellow and the corn leaves and corn silk are rusting in the fields. The first maples are beginning to show their reds and oranges, and bright goldenrod ties them all together.

3: The Monarch Butterfly Moon wanes until it becomes the new Goldenrod Moon at 1:45 p.m.

11: The Goldenrod Moon enters its second quarter at 6:37 a.m.

17: The Goldenrod Moon is completely full at 9:01 p.m.

25: The Goldenrod Moon enters its last quarter at 1:41 a.m.

The sun's progress

Throughout the northern hemisphere, the sun reaches equinox on September 22nd at 5:23 p.m. Within several days of that moment, the night remains about 12 hours long throughout the country. Sunrise takes place between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. everywhere north of Mexico City, sunset between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.

The planets

Venus remains in Virgo with Jupiter this month, too close to the sun to see at either morning or evening twilight. Mars, however, rises in Aries after sundown, foretelling the advent of the Pleiades, Taurus, and winter's Orion. Saturn stays in Cancer, coming up a few hours before sunrise as the morning star.

The stars

After midnight, the Milky Way runs from east to west across the sky. The stars of the Summer Triangle are setting in the far west, and Orion is climbing up from the eastern horizon. Hercules, which was overhead at 12:00 a.m. in the first week of June, is now setting in the northwest, and Castor and Pollux, the twins of Gemini, are coming up over the tree line in the northeast. By sunrise, Orion has shifted to the center of the heavens. January's Leo and its brightest star, Regulus, have risen from the Atlantic Ocean, and the Great Square is following Hercules into the Pacific.

The shooting stars

The Piscid meteors fall through Pisces, right in the middle of the southern sky, an hour or two after midnight throughout the month. Usually, the beginning of September's fourth week brings the best chances for seeing one of these shooting stars. This year's darkening, waning moon during the latter days of the month increases the chances for successful meteor watching.

Astronomical data for October

The phases of the Goldenrod Moon and the Second-Spring Moon

Even though October is a month for endings, it is not a month of stasis. Spruces are growing new needles. Caraway and henbit can be flowering in the sun, and a dandelion or a periwinkle will open in scattered fields and lawns, announcing second spring. Chickweed, which sprouted at the end of the summer, is blossoming. Catnip grows back beside fresh moneywort, wild geranium, leafcup, henbit and yarrow.

3: The Goldenrod Moon wanes until it becomes the new Second-Spring Moon at 5:28 a.m.

10: The Second-Spring Moon enters its second quarter at 2:01 p.m.

17: The Second-Spring Moon becomes completely full at 7:14 a.m.

24: The Second-Spring Moon enters its last quarter at 8:17p.m.

A partial lunar eclipse will be visible west of the Mississippi on October 17th. Look for the eclipse to begin at 6:33 a.m. (EST) to peak at 7:03 a.m., and to end at 7:32 a.m. Eclipse times will vary up to almost an hour depending on your position within your time zone.

The sun's progress

October 23rd is Cross-Quarter Day, the halfway mark between equinox and winter solstice.

Daylight Savings Time ends at 2:00 a.m. Sunday, October 30th. Set your clocks back an hour before you go to bed on the 29th. Remember to transition your livestock, your children and yourself slowly to the new routine.

The planets

Venus becomes visible again as the evening star in Ophiuchus during the first part of the month, moving retrograde and eluding the brightness of the sunset. Mars continues to bring Taurus from the east, rising before sundown. Jupiter lies in Virgo, just barely visible due east before the sun moves up over the horizon. Saturn emerges in Cancer early in the morning, moves almost overhead by dawn.

The stars

When you go outside at a few hours before dawn, you will see the sky the way it appears on a late January evening. Orion stands in the middle of the southern sky. Cancer is leading Leo across the east. Cepheus huddles in the northwest, the Big Dipper in the northeast.

The shooting stars

The Orionid meteors fall through Orion every night in October. Best viewing should be during the first weeks of the month while the moon is dark.

Weather systems

Weather history indicates that cold waves will cross the Mississippi around the dates listed below. The fronts reach Western states 24 to 48 hours prior to their arrival in the Midwest; they reach the East 24 to 48 hours later.

Fishing and hunting should be most successful if scheduled as the barometer is falling one to three days before the arrival of each weather system. Livestock care should be less stressful during the relatively stable times between fronts (but before the barometer starts to drop below 30.00).


2nd: This system is mild throughout most of the United States, but it brings light-frost season during which the chances for a minor freeze increases slightly with each cool front.

8th: Early fall comes to most of the nation with this front, a period during which the Dog Days of summer almost always fade, fog forms in the early mornings, and the cycle of flowering plants comes to a close.

12th: The September 12th front often sweeps rain across the central and southern states, and clouds often blanket much of the country. Middle September marks a turning point in the year during which the percentage of cloud cover gradually begins to increase and the chances for colder temperatures grow.

15th: This mid-September weather system is accompanied by chances for cooler afternoon high temperatures (highs sometimes just in the 50s in the northern states). Along with the chillier days comes a rapid decline in the number of wildflowers in bloom.

20th: The autumn equinox front is typically characterized by warmth at its approach and a likelihood of frost as it departs east. At average elevations along the 40th parallel, the chances for a light freeze are now about 30 percent.

24th: The possibility of frost begins to increase more rapidly with the passage of the second-last major front of September--chances for damaging temperature almost doubling over the chances after the equinox front.

29th: Average temperatures start to fall at the rate of about four degrees per week in most of the nation, and the chances for harm to frost-sensitive flowers and vegetables rise to almost 80 percent above the Mason-Dixon Line after the arrival of the September 29th weather system.


2nd: Chances for a hard freeze following this front are about 10 percent at average elevations on the 40th Parallel. Along the Canadian border, expect light frost for sure.

4th: For those who keep a barometric weather graph, this front often adds a second hump to the October 2nd high-pressure rise. Look for continuing risk of freezing temperatures.

7th: Between this front and the next, snow enters the realm of possibility all across the northern states. The chances that light frost has struck half the gardens in the United States is now close to 90 percent.

13th: The Columbus Day cold front often is the first front to bring a serious chance of snow flurries at average elevations along the 40th parallel. Highs below 50 degrees now occur about three or four afternoons out of ten in two-thirds of the states of the Union.

17th: St. Luke's Little Summer, a traditional time in Europe for clear, dry weather starts today and ends the 28th. Something of a parallel exists here on the western side of the Atlantic: October's precipitation often declines noticeably towards the end of the month, then rises sharply with the advent of November.

23rd: Now the chances for highs only in the 30s sweep across the nation, and the odds for afternoons in the 70s drop quickly after the arrival of this front. Except for in the southern states, 80s now remain only a fantasy until next April.

30th: The period between the 23rd and Halloween is often one of the mildest and driest times of autumn. Although the Trick-or-Treat cold front is due on the 30th or 31st, the days following the arrival of that weather system typically extend gentle fall weather through the first few days of November.

Farming and gardening notes

Of course if one hasn't the necessary knowledge and ambition to succeed at farming there is no disgrace in moving to town to study law or medicine or become a policeman.

--Farm and Ranch, 1912


The waxing moon favors all kinds of planting and transplanting throughout the first half of the month. Get ready to seed or re-seed spring pasture. Spread manure from the chicken coop on bare garden plots that will lie fallow until spring.

Put in winter tomatoes for greenhouse fruit, but protect them from whiteflies. Prepare cold frames in northern states, and then seed your late-autumn greens for October, November and December salads. Also as the moon waxes, plant fall peas. Put out cabbage, kale and collards. Seed the lawn.

After equinox, some poultry owners turn on a low-wattage light bulb in the chicken house in order to counter the effects of the shortening days on egg production. Since the best market for fresh eggs occurs between November 1st and the end of February, you may wish to experiment with trying to keep your hens laying.

September is bulb-planting month in the northern half of the country. Put in scillas, snowdrops, tulips, daffodils, and crocuses during the last two weeks of the month as the moon wanes. Dig the tender gladiolus and dahlia bulbs in the North, and store them for the winter away from frost and moisture.

Peonies and other perennials may be fertilized this month to encourage improved flowering next spring and summer. This is also a good time to enlarge your day lily and iris collections.

Pick fall apples and the last of the summer apples as moisture content reaches its peak on September 17th.


Put in root crops, spring flower bulbs and transplant perennials as the moon wanes between the 18th and the 31st. The waning moon also favors clipping hair, trimming hooves, worming livestock, putting on shingles, pruning shrubs or trees to retard growth, killing weeds, cutting firewood, and having surgery.

Schedule garlic planting for after the full moon. If you've never tried self-sufficiency in this herb, try sticking a few cloves in the ground this month, and watch your harvest multiply through the years ahead.

The chickens may be laying fewer eggs and starting to moult as October deepens. Watch to see if the full moon or new moon has an effect on your birds' behavior and condition.

Wrap new trees with burlap to help them ward off winter winds. Complete fall field and garden tillage before the November chill and rains.

Pastures may be regreening in some areas now, part of the second-spring process that brings a resurgence in wildflower development in the woods. Provide plenty of free choice hay to livestock in order reduce the chance they will gorge themselves on fresh growth.

In the North, seed the last of the winter greens and plant winter grains under the new moon between the 3rd and the 17th.

Frost season means danger. Be alert for poisoning in your flock and herd due to toxic changes in the chemical composition of grasses and alfalfa.

Frost season obviously brings cooler temperatures, and livestock will need a gradual increase in feed in order to provide them with sufficient autumn and winter energy.

As cold weather settles across the North, be especially careful transporting your pigs. Provide plenty of bedding straw for them so they don't get chilled, and adequate food and water. And don't forget to keep the piglets nice and warm, no matter where they are.

A floating sequence for the blooming perennials

The dates listed in this calendar are approximate times for the first blossoming of some common flora along much of the 40th parallel (at 1,000 feet above sea level) in an average year.

September 4: New England Aster

September 5: Forsythia--Autumn Bloom

September 6: Autumn Crocus

Late September to Late October: Witch Hazel

Lunar feeding patterns for people and beasts

The following weekly key to lunar position shows when the moon is above the continental United States, and therefore the period during which all creatures are typically most active. The second-most-active times occur when the moon is below the earth.

Fishing and hunting may be more successful and livestock may be slightly friskier with the moon overhead.

Date: Above; Below

Sept. 1-2: Mornings; Evenings

Sept. 3-10: Afternoons; Midnight to Dawn

Sept. 11-16: Evenings; Mornings

Sept. 17-24: Midnight to Dawn; Afternoons

Sept. 25-30: Mornings; Evenings

Oct. 1-2: Mornings; Evenings

Oct. 3-9: Afternoons; Midnight to Dawn

Oct. 10-16: Evenings; Mornings

Oct. 17-23: Midnight to Dawn; Afternoons

Oct. 24-31: Mornings; Evenings

The weeks of autumn

Each of the following weekly descriptions is a "floating" narrative that can be moved backwards or forwards in time, depending on the reader's location.

The week the last wildflowers bloom

In the last week of late summer, the final tier of wildflowers starts to open. White and violet asters, orange beggarticks, burr marigolds, tall goldenrod, zigzag goldenrod and Japanese knotweed come into bloom, blending with the brightest of the purple ironweed, yellow sundrops, blue chicory, golden touch-me-nots, showy coneflowers and great blue lobelia.

Deep in the woods, the late wildflowers of this year coincide with the first growth of second spring, actually the first days of next spring. March's henbit comes up in the garden. The garlic mustard that will flower two Aprils from now sprouts in the rain. Wood mint puts out new stalks. Watercress revives in the sloughs. Next May's sweet rockets and next July's avens send up fresh basal leaves. Scattered violets flower. Sweet Cicely sends out its foliage again. Sedum reappears, lanky from its canopied summer.

On the farm, pickle season is usually over, and peaches can be done for the year. Grapes are about to come in, and elderberries are deep purple and sweet for picking. Nearly half of the tobacco has usually been cut, half the commercial tomatoes have been picked, about a fourth of the potatoes dug.

Hickory-nutting season opens as sweet-corn time winds down. Burrs from tick trefoil stick to your stockings when you wander off the trail. Lizard's tail drops its leaves into the creeks and sloughs. Beside the deer paths of the forests, the undergrowth is tattered and cluttered with the remnants of the year.

The last fireflies are flickering. Redheaded woodpeckers, redwinged blackbirds, house wrens, scarlet tanagers, indigo buntings, eastern bluebirds and black ducks migrate.

The week of the puffball mushrooms

One of the first signs of early fall is the appearance of giant white puff-ball mushrooms in the woods. As the sun moves to within a few degrees of equinox, other creatures tell the time as well as puffballs. Elms, box elders, locusts, chinquapin oaks, lindens and redbuds show their autumn colors. Sycamores are changing to a golden green, dogwoods to pink. Bright patches of scarlet sumac and Virginia creeper mark the fencerows. Some ash and cottonwoods are almost bare. Slippery elms are turning yellowbrown, and poplars fade.

The rich scent of late summer pollen is almost gone by end of the week, replaced by the pungent odor of fallen apples and leaves. Cicadas are dying. Bees are awkward and stiff in the cool mornings. Sometimes on sunny days, woolly bear caterpillars swarm across the roads, forecasting winter. Kingbirds, finches, ruddy ducks, herring gulls and yellow-bellied sapsuckers move south.

Most berries are gone from the wild cherry trees when puffball mushrooms grow in the dark. The fat Osage fruits are falling. Berries are red on the silver olives, orange on the American mountain ash, purple on the pokeweed. The domestic plants of local ponds are shriveling: the water lettuce, hyacinth and pickerel. The green frogs are finally silent.

The time of leafturn

When autumn leafturn starts near equinox in the Midwest, the deciduous trees are bare in northern Canada. In Oregon and Maine, foliage colors are approaching their best. In the Rocky Mountains, bull elks are mustering their harems, and snow is falling.

Now the soybean fields are yellow. Touch-me-nots are popping. Wood nettle seeds are black. Wingstem, clearweed and ironweed complete their cycle. Buckeyes are starting to burst from their hulls. More black walnuts, more hickory nuts, more acorns come down. The huge pink mallows of the wetlands have died, heads dark, leaves disintegrating. Scattered in the pastures, the milkweed pods are full, straining, ready to open. Mullein stalks stand bare like withered cacti. In the perennial garden, varieties of late hostas, like the August Moon and the Royal Standard, discard their petals.

Robin migration calls complement the chatter of the crows and jays and squirrels in the early mornings. Cicada holidays become more frequent in the cooler afternoons. Sometimes katydids are silent after dark, leaving the whole night to the great chorus of crickets.

The week the milkweeds open

When the milkweed pods come open, then frost season is on the way, and Canadian geese, great-crested flycatchers, blue-gray gnatcatchers, ruby-throated hummingbirds, Eastern wood peewees and bank swallows move down their flyways toward the Gulf of Mexico. Buzzards gather at their roosts. Crows are the only birds to call before dawn. Monarch butterflies become more numerous and visit the late phlox and the zinnias in the afternoon sun; other insects, however, become less common in the field and garden as the number of pollen-bearing flowers dwindles. Spiders understand; they weave fewer webs.

When milkweed pods open, peak leaf coloration starts in northern New England. In the Mid-Atlantic States, the canopy is visibly thinning. Honey locusts are half yellow, buckeyes in the middle of full leafdrop. Hickories are gold, like the ashes. The first white mulberry, sycamore and cottonwood leaves have come down in the wind.

Barberries are red, and rose hips have turned red alongside them. Touch-me-nots are still blooming, but their foliage deteriorates. Late summer's clearweed has developed green seeds. Older wingstem and ironweed are done blossoming. Wild lettuce leaves are stained with decay. Queen Anne's lace and bright blue chicory die back suddenly. The first goldenrod is brown. White vervain is gray, streaked with maroon, tattered, laced from insects. Boneset is rusting. Beggarticks are ready to stick to your clothing. Roadside sunflowers and Jerusalem artichokes enter their final week.

The week of the first junco

This last week of early fall is the week the first slate-gray junco arrives for winter. Goldenrod is seeding now, pods of the burning bush are open, hawthorn berries redden, wild grapes are purple, and the tree line that seemed so deep in summer just days ago is suddenly poised to break into its final color of the year.

When juncos arrive, ashes show red or gold; the catalpas and the cottonwoods blanch. Shagbark hickories, tulip trees, sassafras, elms, locusts and sweet gums change to full yellow, merge with the swelling orange of the maples to create a variegated archway into middle fall.

When the first junco appears, the terns and meadowlarks, yellow-rumped warblers and purple martins migrate. Turkey vultures gather from the north. Hawks move south, resting on fences and high wires to look for prey. Titmice chirp, and sometimes cardinals sing. Robins give their short migration clucks.

As the canopy thins, hemlock, ragwort, yarrow, waterleaf, violets, wild ginger and sweet Cicely grow back. Mums are at their best, and the latest raspberries ripen. Sometimes crabapple trees, forsythia and lilacs come into bloom again. Pussy willows that have lost their foliage to leaf miners sometimes make new leaves. But the tall sedums begin to relinquish their petals, and autumn crocuses die back. Asters are winding down; August's jumpseeds are jumping, touch-me-nots popping, thimble plants unraveling. The toothed leaves of beggarticks darken overnight. Buckeye fruits have fallen, and three-seeded mercury has lost its seeds.

Cabbage butterflies become more reckless in their search for nectar. Aphids disappear in the chilly nights. Cicadas die. Japanese beetles complete their season. Daddy longlegs disappear from the undergrowth, and spiders of all kinds move indoors. Damselflies are rare along the rivers now, and darners have left their ponds.

The week of the final monarchs

The last monarchs depart for Mexico as the high canopy thins and the burning bush turns deep scarlet. The ashes, redbuds and hickories shed quickly, and the land enters full maple-turn and middle fall. Many catalpas are down, beans left swinging in the wind. Ginkgo fruits, which will be on the ground by late November, are turning pink. Box elders, poplars, elms, red mulberries and sycamores are mottled.

Chimney swifts, wood thrushes, barn swallows and red-eyed vireos move out of the country this first week of middle fall. Flocks of blackbirds and robins migrate across the countryside. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers move through the woods.

Half the goldenrod has rusted, and many of the varieties of asters deteriorate all at once. The brown beggartick seeds stick to your pants. Scattered watercress plants bloom one more time. New hepatica leaves are dark and strong along the rocky paths. Henbit that sprouted a month ago is two inches tall. The low October sun brings a golden, secondspring glow to the grass.

The Center of Middle Fall

The chemical changes in the foliage that became noticeable six weeks ago accelerate until the fragile landscape turns all at once. Shagbark hickories, maples, sweet gums, oaks, sassafras, and sycamores reach peak colon Black walnuts, locusts, buckeyes, box elders, hackberries, pussy willows, ashes and cottonwoods are almost bare. Blueberry bushes are completely red. Vineyards are yellow and brown, only a few grapes left. Some ginkgoes are pale golden green, some just a little faded. Large patches of sky shine through the tattered canopy.

In the cooler, wetter nights, crickets and katydids are weakening. Only a few swallowtails and fritillaries visit the garden, and just a few fireflies glow in the grass. Out in the fields, almost all the wildflowers have gone to seed. Wild cucumber fruits are dry and empty. Hosta pods are splitting, black seeds ready to fall in a storm. Wild asparagus yellows by the roadsides. The final sedum blossoms are closing for the year.

Quickweed still provides a deep green border to the paths, and a few lance-leaf and zigzag goldenrod still hold. Asters are still common, along with chicory and Queen Anne's lace. Pink smartweed keeps blossoming, and catchweed flowers again. Impatiens, petunias and geraniums that have escaped the frost still bloom with the hardier mums and pansies.

The week katydids fall silent

In the last week of middle fall, the oaks and the Osage, white mulberries, magnolias, ginkoes and the late black and sugar maples move towards full color. The second tier of leaves, consisting mostly of the early maples, is coming down (in the first tier were the ashes and box elders, locusts and buckeyes).

As foliage thins, Eastern phoebes, catbirds and house wrens depart. The last turkey vultures circle the northern states. Vast flocks of robins are fluttering, chattering, whinnying, and moving south through the high trees along the river valleys.

Starlings cackle and whistle, and the last cabbage moths look for cabbages. The last daddy longlegs hunt in the flowerbeds. At night, crickets fill in for the silent katydids. Cattails begin to break apart. The final asters of the year go to seed. The final giant jimsonweed opens in the cornfields.

Answers to the Healing Herbs Scrambler Sweepstakes

Vickie Miner from New Albany, Mississippi, was the 20th person to get her unscrambled scrambler to Poor Will, and so she receives the first $5 prize. As of July 5th, 50 responses had yet to be received, so the 50th (and 100th) respondents' names will appear in the next issue of COUNTRYSIDE. The 10th person to find all the typos was Barbara Gallagher of Babylon, New York. She gets the $5 typo prize. As for the tools for self-sufficiency puzzle, people just kept submitting solutions right up until they received the issue that contained the answers. The magical 200th response, however, did not come in-but 133 responses did!

Now for the Wild Edibles Scrambler Sweepstakes!

"Here in South Carolina," writes the author who contributed this Scrambler, "we have an abundance of wild edibles, even some that can be used for seasoning." The writer cautions that any "greens" must be the very young leaves and must "always be cooked."

Of course, first of all, .you have to unscramble them:

If you are the 20th, 50th, 75th or 125th person to unscramble these herbs, or the 10th to find the typos (if there are any), you will receive $5.

Send your entries by regular mail (no emails, please), preferably on a postcard to Poor Will at 316 South High, Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387.

copyright 2005--W.L. Felker
COPYRIGHT 2005 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 2005
Previous Article:Homesteading community forming in Missouri.
Next Article:The potato patch.

Related Articles
Kick back with your almanac.
Poor Will's COUNTRYSIDE Almanac for late autumn and early winter.
Poor Will's vegetable and flower scrambler.
Poor Will's almanac for early & middle autumn.
Poor Will's almanac for Deep Winter 2005.
Middle and late summer 2005.
Social security law, 2d ed.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters