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Poor Will's Countryside Almanack for middle & late summer 2008.

In natural history, every event is a sign, and every sign is what it signifies. Every observation is the telling of a precise time of the earth's turn.

--Bradford Townsend

Astronomical data for July

The phases of the Turtle Hatching Moon

Turtles laid their eggs in middle and late spring, now after a little more than two months of incubation, young turtles begin to emerge to hunt the forest floor, the streams and ponds. When you hear cicadas calling and see corn tasseling, you can be sure those baby turtles are out and starting to feed.

2: The Turtle Hatching Moon is new at 9:19 p.m.

9: The moon enters its second quarter at 11:35 p.m.

18: The moon is full at 2:59 a.m.

25: The moon enters its last quarter at 1:42 p.m.

The sun's progress

Aphelion, the point at which the Earth is about 153 million kilometers (its greatest distance) from the sun, occurs at 3:00 a.m. on July 4th.

The stars

On the 4th of July, Sirius, the Dog Star, is centered in the southern sky at noon, signaling the start of the summer Dog Days. After dark, the stars of the Summer Triangle are moving into the eastern sky for August. The easiest of these three stars to find is Deneb, which is the large "tail" star of Cygnus (shaped like a large goose or swan in flight, its long neck pointing to the south). To the right of Deneb lies Vega, the brightest star overhead these nights. The third corner of the triangle is Altair, below and about halfway between the other two corners.

The planets

Venus moves into Cancer this month then into Leo ending its tenure as the morning star. Jupiter continues to travel along the southern horizon with Sagittarius throughout the night. Mars and Saturn set with Leo at dusk.

The shooting stars

The end of July brings the Delta Aquarid meteors after 12:00 a.m. in Aquarius and the Capricornid meteors in Capricorn.

Astronomical data for August

The phases of the Katydid Moon and the Monarch Butterfly Moon

Cicadas still call throughout the days, but the nights now bring the voices of autumn crickets and the katydids to city and country landscapes. The crickets court and sing sometimes a full four months, finally dying out as the frosts become heavier in late November. The katydids are a little less hardy, usually giving way to the cold by the end of October.

1: The Katydid Moon is new at 5:13 a.m.

8: The moon enters its second quarter at 3:20 p.m.

16: The moon is full at 4:16 p.m.

23: The moon enters its final quarter at 6:50 p.m.

30: The Monarch Butterfly Moon is new at 2:58 p.m.

The sun's progress

August 22nd is Cross-Quarter Day and marks the halfway point between summer solstice and autumn equinox. The sun enters Virgo at the same time. Having fallen just five and a half degrees between summer solstice and the 1st of August (from a declination of 23 degrees 26 minutes to a declination of 18 degrees), the sun now speeds up its retreat from middle summer to one degree every three days, and it holds that rate of decline through September.

The planets

Venus joins Mars this month in Virgo setting at dusk. Jupiter still spends the night along the southern horizon in Sagittarius, and Saturn remains in Leo, disappearing into the west at sundown. On the 16th of the month, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Mercury cluster above the western horizon after sunset.

The stars

Before sunrise, the Pleiades and Taurus lead Orion out of the ecliptic. In the north, the Big Dipper lies against the horizon. Due south, the gangly formation of Sculptor lies between Fornax and Piscis Austrinus.

The shooting stars

Starting on August 12% the Perseid meteors appear in the east at the rate of one shooting star a second an hour or so after midnight below the Milky Way in Perseus. If you look too far to the east, you will see Orion emerging out of the trees. If you look too far west, you will see the Great Square.

The Almanack Daybook

Match this daybook with notes about events you observe in your own habitat. Comparing the items listed here with similar occurrences or practices where you live, you should be able to fine tune your sense of real time, add things of interest and importance to you, and create your own daybook.


1st: Timothy is bearded with seeds, and rose of Sharon flowers. Stag beetles appear on your porch. Plan to harvest before the Corn Tassel Rains (July 2-7). Mulch in preparation of Dog Day heat and peak weed season. Detassel corn while the moon is still dark.

Tidal and lunar influences have been shown to be greater at full moon and new moon times. You might expect more trouble with your flock, herd, spouse, parents or children, therefore, on or about July 2nd and 18th.

2nd: Set in crops that will bear their fruit above the ground as the moon is waxing between the 2nd and the 18th. In the garden, plant hollyhock, sweet William and forget-me-not seeds for next year's blossoms. Columbines and delphiniums for 2009 can also be sown this month.

When the first black walnuts start to fall, renovate strawberry beds, cutting off tops above the crown, then fertilize. Plant the latest sweet corn of the year as soon as possible.

3rd: The best part of black raspberry season ends as the summer apple harvest gets underway. Standing water from Corn Tassel Rains can encourage parasite infestation in pastures. Roadside grasses turn like the winter wheat.

4th: The Dog Days of summer reach full bloom, and average temperatures remain at their peak until July 28th. Count the frost-free days remaining in your region, and calculate the estimated harvest time and the fall garden schedule. Select varieties for midsummer planting which are able to grow well even as the days shorten. For frost-sensitive vegetables like beans, try to use varieties that ripen quickly. Late plantings of the fleetest sweet coin and squash can be sown as the moon waxes. Also order seed for green manure production for autumn or early spring. If you have time, build a few cold frames to extend the season another month.

5th: In the Appalachians, thimbleberry, blueweed, great Indian plantain, great mullein, milkweed, black-eyed Susan, columbine, red bleeding heart, dock, daisy fleabane, large black medic bush clover, yellow and white sweet clover, cow parsnip, blue-eyed grass, and Hooker's orchis are in bloom.

6th: The harvest of winter wheat is well underway across the lower Midwest, and the canola harvest has begun in the North. The first ears of field corn are silking, and detasseling operations have begun in seed cornfields of the Midwest. Along the Canadian border, salmonberry bushes are in full bloom. Cottonwood floats in the wind above Banff at Lake Louise. In Calgary, the very last lilac flowers just before the great Stampede rodeo.

7th: Keep up the training of goats you plan to show at the fair: Talking to your animals, walking, standing, accepting the lead from the left and from the right can all be important. Don't forget a little extra grain for the coat, and a little brushing, maybe a little udder ointment.

8th: Since the moon may exert less influence on ocean tides and on human and animal behavior when it comes into its 2nd and 4th quarters, it might make more sense to transport your animals or perform routine maintenance on your livestock on or about July 9th and 25th.

9th: The most intense period of heat stress begins for summer crops. San Jose scale and flathead borers are active on flowering fruit trees. Double-crop beans are being planted after wheat harvest; the moon is entering its second quarter today and favors those beans.

July can be peak parasite month in the fields. Drench lambs and ewes together (it's easier) every 30 days as long as they are on lush pasture. If possible, keep lambs in a field that has been unused since winter.

10th: Morning birdsong continues to diminish, making way for the increase of insect volume. Blackberries are August size this week, but still green in the North. Milkweed pods emerge almost everywhere; they will burst at the approach of middle fall, just 80 days from now.

Feed management becomes increasingly important as breeding season approaches for sheep and goats. Next year brings an April Easter. That means breeding for the Easter Market can begin next month. Flush the ewes and does to be mated at that time, moving them to better pasture and/or feed them more grain, and worm them, too. Some owners shear or clip in midsummer to improve flushing. Shear breeder stock before fall breeding.

11th: Sycamore trees shed their bark, marking the center of summer. Set out autumn collards, kale, cabbage, and broccoli while the moon waxes.

As the July Dog Days intensify, they will bring more Japanese beetles to the roses and leafhoppers to the potatoes, and aphids everywhere. Keep flowers and vegetables well watered and fed to help them resist the onslaught of the insects and weather.

12th: Watch for brown spots in the lawn, signs of the sod webworm. Give plenty of water to the infected area, and treat with pyrethrums. And don't cut the lawn too short while the summer is at its hottest; let it rest a little longer than you would in June, and cut it high.

14th: In Ontario, timothy is still sweet to chew. Strawberries are just starting. Peonies and lilacs and wild lilies are in bloom. Cow parsnips are flowering here and there. Tufts of thistle down hang in the grass. Mid-July rains can cause soybean root rot and leaf yellowing. Japanese beetles reach major levels in the soybeans. Blackberries sweeten in the South.

15th: Calculate estimated losses in productivity due to late planting, drought, insect infestations, hail and other problems. Plan counter-measures such as increased production in other areas of your farm and garden operation.

16th: Fogfruit, great Indian plantain, wingstem, sundrops, small-flowered agrimony, tick trefoil, and velvetleaf flower now as full moon approaches. Keep gladiolus and dahlias watered in the mid-July drought. Include the mums in your summer care; give them a little extra food now for extra blossoms in September.

17th: A slight turning of the leaves is beginning on some of the redbuds, Virginia creepers, box elders, and buckeyes. Foliage of Japanese honeysuckle and the multiflora roses often show patches of yellow. Midwestern peaches are coming in to the markets as late summer's white snakeroot is budding in the woods, and Joe Pye weed heads up in the wetlands.

Top tobacco, set out autumn greens, and harvest peaches and summer apples when you see the wild cherries ripening, and the thimble plants are setting thimbles.

18th: Cicadas chant full force. Fireflies are past their prime in the South, fawns a third grown, blue jays suddenly quiet. The first katydids begin singing after dark, and crickets intensify their song. Woolly bear caterpillars become more common.

19th: Harvest is generally advised as the moon wanes between July 19th and 31st. Dig potatoes and dry onions, cut cabbage for kraut, pickle the cucumbers, gather sweet corn, top tobacco, bring in oats, wheat, alfalfa, and all the summer market crops.

20th: Elderberries are turning purple as soybeans blossom. Cutting cabbage for kraut has started the along the Great Lakes. In a relatively dry summer, more than three-fourths of the winter wheat has been cut by today. Some elm and black walnut leaves yellow in the heat. Pokeweed flowers turn to berries. Seed pods form on the trumpet creepers and the locusts. Catalpa beans are full and long.

21st: The best of the morning bird chorus is over now for the year. Swallows are migrating; they can often be seen congregating on the high wires.

Take special care that breeding stock does not get neglected or run down this month because of weather conditions or irregularities in feeding, drought or rain, vacations, or trips to shows. In another month or so, you will want your ewes and rams at the peak of their condition for autumn mating time.

22nd: Late July, when the day's length has lost an average of 30 to 45 minutes from its longest span, is the average time for does and ewes to show first signs of estrus cycling in much of the country.

23rd: Autumn turnip planting and tobacco topping are often begun today, guided by the first purple blossoms of tall ironweed. Soil is being prepared for autumn wheat planting. The melon harvest is at its zenith. Barberry webworms damage the barberries.

The season of seeds and burs is here and will last through the early winter. Effective weed and shrub management, as well as the avoiding of paint branding and the use of livestock crayons, can pay dividends in the quality of your sheep's wool.

24th: Pastures, roadsides, and alleys are full of chicory, Queen Anne's lace, great mullein, wild petunia, milkweed, pokeweed, black-eyed Susan, butterfly weed, rail nettle, soapwort, St. John's wort, gray-headed coneflower, blue vervain, white vervain, horseweed, oxeye, germander, teasel, fringed loosestrife, velvetleaf, wingstem, sundrops, small-flowered agrimony, bull thistle, tick trefoil, bush clover, burdock, showy and tall coneflower, Jimson weed, pigweed, thin-leafed mountain mint, tick trefoil, downy false foxglove, and three-seeded mercury. Woodlands and wetlands keep their avens, enchanter's nightshade, lopseed, leafcup, touch-me-not, wood nettle, Joe Pye weed, monkey flower, and tall bell flower.

25th: The last week of middle summer arrives with the last week of July, moving in to the song of cicadas, the katydids, and the new generations of crickets. Now, the yellowing locust and buckeye leaves, and the brown garlic mustard give a sense of fall to the woods. Shiny spicebush, boxwood, greenbrier, and poison ivy berries have formed.

26th: Summer apple and blueberry seasons winds down in the Ohio Valley. Kermes scale is often discovered on oak trees. The wheat harvest ends as wild grapes ripen. Geese become restless as a Judas maple here and there turns red. Late-summer fogs appear at dawn.

27th: Seedpods are fully formed on the trumpet creepers. White vervain blossoms reach the end of their spikes. Blue-winged teal start to migrate. Farmers prepare for August seeding of alfalfa, smooth brome grass, orchard grass, tall fescue, red clover, and timothy.

28th: At the very end of July, when the Summer Triangle of stars moves overhead just before bedtime, normal average temperatures start to fall in almost every state of the Union. That means that frost season is only three weeks away along the Canadian border, six weeks away in the lower Midwest, and eight to ten weeks away in the northern parts of the South.

29th: One hundred miles north of Minneapolis, the first commercial sunflowers are opening in the fields. Some Canadian thistles are still blooming there. White campion is in full flower, along with purple vetch, purple bergamot, day lilies, blue vervain. Clovers are everywhere, just like they are during a Kentucky June. Tall coneflowers, Joe Pye weed, biennial gaura, white snakeroot, jumpseed and common and great ragweed mark the approach of August.

By the end of the month, ragweed blooms, along with jumpseed and the great blue lobelia and boneset. Osage fruits, full size, drop to the ground. Lizard's tail and wood nettle go to seed along the riverbanks. Wild grapes and blackberries ripen. Geese become restless, and a few Judas maples and Virginia creepers redden.

30th: Ragweed heads up for August as honewort and wood nettle, mallow, and tall meadow rue go to seed. Early cottonwoods are weathering. Patches of yellow appear on the weaker ash trees. Black walnut leaves start to fall. Pods of the touch-me-not burst at the slightest movement. Dogbane pods swing in the wind. Meadowlarks begin migration.

31st: If you have spent too much money on hay or grain this year, you might plan to adjust your breeding schedule in order to time it better with next year's peak pasture growth. Some homesteaders say that the most economical timing is to have your lambs and kids five weeks old when the first pasture is ready.

Rose hips are forming on the wild roses that grow throughout much of the country. If you have those prolific shrubs on your property, ration out their fruits to your does. Traditional goat lore says that there is no better plant for keeping your animals' reproductive system healthy.

Remember that tidal and lunar influences have been shown to be greater at full moon and new moon times. You might expect more trouble on your homestead, therefore, on or about August 1st, 16th and 30th.


1st: As the Katydid Moon replaces the Turtle Hatching Moon, honeysuckle berries ripen; hickory nuts and black walnuts drop into the undergrowth. Arrowhead is in full bloom along the shores of rivers and lakes. Wood nettle goes to seed along the bottomland. Summer potato digging is underway.

Even though temperature changes in August are usually slow, the new moon today could bring an early cool wave across the Plains. And throughout the month, keep an eye on the average temperatures in your area. They will be dropping one to two degrees a week in August, two to three degrees a week in September. Check the average killing frost date for your region, then subtract 30 days for light frost, and 30 more days for the chance of a slight frost (enough to damage delicate market crops like basil).

If you are looking for two or three dry days in a row for haying, try during the first days of the month, and then after the August 10th cold front. The passage of high-pressure systems around 18th and 29th should also be followed by at least 48 hours of dry conditions.

2nd: This is ragweed time, the first week of late summer. Golden and purple coneflowers, and white, pink and violet phlox still dominate the gardens. Red trumpet vine still curls through the trellises. Virgin's bower starts to open. Mums and red stonecrop appear in the dooryards. Prickly mallow, field thistle, clearweed, willow herb and Japanese knotweed blossom in the woods and alleys. Summer apples are half picked.

As the moon waxes, put in your viola and pansy seeds for spring flowers. Plant your fall peas. Put out cabbage, kale and collard sets. Seed the lawn. Gather up the winter squash plants as their stems dry, leaving about two inches of stem on the fruit; store in a cool, dry location.

3rd: August takes about 75 minutes from the day's length. On the first day of the month, most of the country enjoys around 14-1/4 hours of daylight per 24 hours. In only 31 days, that figure has become just over 13 hours. Even though the night grows longer in August, the percentage of possible sunshine per day increases to the highest of the year throughout the country.

4th: Most of the corn will be silked by now, and most of the soybeans will be flowering or setting pods. Oats and the second cut of alfalfa are ordinarily three-fourths harvested across the nation's midsection.

After the August 4th weather system moves across the land, the likelihood for highs in the 90s begins a steady decline across the northern tier of states, and the possibility for a high only in the 60s increases.

5th: Robin calls increase, short clucking signals for migration. Starlings and warblers become more restless. Hummingbirds, wood ducks, plovers, Baltimore orioles and purple martins start to disappear south; their departure marks a quickening in the advent of early fall.

6th: Green acorns fall to the sweet rocket growing back among the budding asters. Black walnut foliage is thinning. Violet Joe Pye weed becomes gray like the thistledown. Fruit of the bittersweet ripens orange. Spicebush berries redden. Rose pinks and great blue lobelias color the waysides.

7th: Since the moon may exert less influence on ocean rides and on human and animal behavior when if comes into its 2nd and 4th quarters, it might make more sense to transport your animals or perform routine maintenance on your livestock on or about August 8th and 23rd.

8th: The Katydid Moon enters its second quarter today, and today is also Cross-Quarter Day, the halfway point to equinox (only 6-1/2 weeks away). Cross-Quarter Day also is the average date for the first major cool front of late summer to come ashore on the Pacific coast.

Get ready to seed or re-seed spring pastures in September or October. Prepare cold frames in the North, and then seed late autumn greens and radishes under the waxing moon for October, November and December salads.

9th: Everbearing strawberries and watermelons are ripe, and tobacco is topped on most plots. Midwestern peaches are at their best. Farmers are bringing in corn for silage, digging potatoes, picking tomatoes and finishing the second or third cut of alfalfa hay.

10th: Don't let the weather stress your pregnant ewes and does--especially during the critical period following impregnation! The approaching cool front begins the transition from summer stability to autumn unpredictability. Sudden cold snaps and strong fall winds can now chill your animals in no time at all.

Horns of the staghorn sumac turn brown. Tree of heaven, locusts, poplars, buckeyes, catalpas and box elders fade in the sun. Starlings and warblers become restless. Robins are clucking the migration signals in the honeysuckles.

11th: In a normal year, the northern corn is denting, and a few southern ears are mature. The soybeans are turning, and most are setting pods. The harvest of winter wheat and oats is complete throughout the nation; now Canadians harvest spring wheat.

12th: Late summer can be hot almost everywhere in the United States. If the weather is especially warm, it may be best to shear the ewes before flushing.

13th: Elderberries and wild grapes should be perfect for juice and wine. Mum-selling time is approaching for the mum growers. Pansy time is here for the autumn pansy market. Garlic planting time begins along the Canadian border from Washington to Maine.

14th: Morning fogs are thickening as the night air cools more often into the 50s. Grackle activity increases while cardinal song becomes fainter. The early morning robins are silent. Whip-poor-wills, cedar waxwings, and catbirds follow the signs toward the Gulf of Mexico.

15th: Late August and all of September offer near ideal conditions for dividing and transplanting perennials. Crocus, aconites, snowdrops, daffodils and tulips can go in the ground after full moon all across the northern states; southern states can wait until October. Peonies and other perennials may be fertilized this month to encourage improved flowering next spring and summer. This is also an excellent time to enlarge your day lily and iris collections.

16th: The Katydid Moon is full, bringing the chance of frost at the highest elevations.

17th: The cold front that typically arrives in the middle of August begins the transition from summer stability to autumn unpredictability in the North. Sudden cold snaps and strong autumnal winds can now chill your sheep in the mountains.

19th: Wild plums are ready for jelly. Next year's sweet rocket foliage grows back in the woods. Before frost, pick and preserve some marjoram, sage, clover, and fennel to feed to your ewes and does after birthing. Some owners say these herbs stimulate increased milk production. Also collect and freeze colostrum for your winter lambs.

21st: Dig the tender gladiolus and dahlia bulbs in the North, and store them for the winter away from frost and moisture. Purchase a little rye to plant in the garden now; let it sprout and grow, then spade it under in March or April. If you plant your spinach now, it should overwinter and provide an early spring crop.

22nd: August is also a good month in which to test your soil--both for your fall and winter garden as well as the fields where you intend to sow winter wheat and rye, alfalfa, canola, clover and timothy. Make corrective lime and fertilizer applications for autumn plantings.

23rd: The Katydid Moon enters its final quarter today, favoring the transport and showing of animals. Puffball mushrooms emerge among spring's rotting stems and leaves. Bees are everywhere in the fields, sometimes five or six on a single flower cluster.

24th: Now the likelihood of severe heat in the nation's midsection is only half of what it was at the beginning of August. And with the last two cool fronts of August, the chances for frost increase even more in the northern tier of states.

25th: Signs of fall coming: 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.

26th: The wood thrush has begun to fly south. The first beggarticks, hog peanuts, bur marigolds and asters flower. Greenbrier berries turn blue-black. Rare autumn violets bloom. Jumpseeds are jumping. Ragweed pollen disappears with the last of the garden phlox. The year's final tier of wildflowers is budding: beggarticks, bur marigolds, asters, zigzag goldenrod.

27th: Vaccinate your lambs for enterotoxemia before you let them out to clean up the cornfields after harvest.

28th: Be especially careful with your pregnant ewes during cold snaps, as environmental stress can induce abortion.

29th: Telephone wires fill with birds as migrations accelerate. Flickers, redheaded woodpeckers, red-winged blackbirds, house wrens, scarlet tanagers, indigo buntings, Eastern bluebirds, robins, grackles, and black ducks move south. In the rivers and lakes, lizard's tail drops its leaves. The last firefly blinks in the grass. Burs from the panicled tick trefoil stick to your pants legs and to your sheep and goats.

30th: The Monarch Butterfly Moon is new today, initiating the peak period of monarch butterfly migrations.

31st: Prepare cold frames in northern states, then seed your late autumn greens and radishes in September for October, November and December salads.

Fall is a great time to plant or divide lilac bushes. Do it in the dark of the moon. Prune your privet hedges for the last time in September. Do that with the dark moon, too!
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Article Details
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Author:Felker, W.L.
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Article Type:Calendar
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2008
Previous Article:Self-sufficiency, when it really matters.
Next Article:After 11 new schools and moving 12 times, home is where the heart is.

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