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Poor Will's Countryside almanack for early winter 2006.

If you are afflicted with melancholy at this season, go to the swamp and see the brave spears of skunkcabbage buds already advanced toward a new year.... See those green cabbage buds lifting the dry leaves in that watery and muddy place.... They see over the brown of winter's hill. They see another summer ahead.

--Henry David Thoreau

Astronomical data for November The phases of the Skunk Cabbage Moon and the Orchid Moon

November 5: The Skunk Cabbage Moon is full at 7:58 a.m.

November 12: The moon enters its final quarter at 2:45 p.m.

November 20: The Orchid Moon is new at 5:18 p.m.

November 28: The moon enters its second quarter at 1:29 a.m.

The sun's progress

The sun's declination moves from about 65 percent of the way from fall equinox to winter solstice on the 1st of November to more than 80 percent by the 30th.

The planets

Venus, Mars and Jupiter are clustered together in Libra this month. Look for them just before sunrise deep in the east. Saturn remains in Leo during November, rising in the middle of the night, moving to the western half of the sky by dawn.

The stars

As the Big Dipper circles Polaris, it tells the time of winter. When the Dipper lies due east of the North Star in the evening, its pointers pointing east-west, solstice marks the year's darkest days. When the pointers point southeast-northwest at 10:00 p.m., maple sap is running, and when the Big Dipper is all the way into the southern sky before midnight, its pointers pointing north-south, then daffodils are blooming throughout the Border States, and snow crocus is opening in New England.

The shooting stars

The South Taurid meteor shower brings shooting stars after midnight between the 1st and the 7th in Taurus. The Leonid meteors are active between the 15th and the 21st in the east in Leo after 12:00 a.m. The moon will cause the least interference with meteor watching during the second half of November.

Astronomical data for December The Phases of the Orchid Moon and the Owl Nesting Moon

December 4: The Orchid Moon is full at 7:25 p.m.

December 12: The moon enters its final quarter at 9:32 a.m.

December 20: The Owl Nesting Moon is new at 9:01 a.m.

December 27: The moon enters its second quarter at 9:48 a.m.

The sun's progress

Winter solstice for 2006 occurs at 7:22 p.m. on the 21st. On the 24th of December, the sun begins its journey toward June, shifting from the declination of 23 degrees, 26 minutes to 23 degrees, 25 minutes.

The planets

Venus moves into Sagittarius this month and will not be visible. Jupiter and Mars are in Scorpio, hidden by daylight throughout December. The only major planet to appear in the night sky is Saturn, rising in Leo around midnight and following Orion, Gemini and Cancer across the heavens.

The stars

Orion is the most obvious of all the star groups, and around him cluster some of the easiest stars to identify late in the evening. Leading Orion into winter is red Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus. In front of Taurus, the seven sisters of the Pleiades lie almost in the center of the sky. Above the Hunter's raised arms, Capella is the largest light in Auriga. Above and behind Orion, Castor and Pollux, the brightest stars of Gemini mark the east. Trailing along in the southeast is Sirius, the giant Dog Star.

The shooting stars

The Geminid meteors pass through the northeast after midnight on the 13th. The full moon, however, will make meteor watching difficult. Later in the month, the Ursid meteors fall near the Big Dipper and Little Dipper, the "Ursid" or "bear" constellations. Lunar phase will favor the sighting of these shooting stars.

The weather systems and your homestead
 Now weather brings both drafts and ice,
 Pneumonia, scours and pesky lice.
 Watch for mold within the hay,
 And offer herbs throughout the day.

Weather history indicates that cold waves will cross the Mississippi around the dates listed below. Storms are most likely to disrupt travel and livestock care on or about November 2-5, November 14-16, and November 23-28. In December, the periods that are most likely to create problems are the first two days of the month and the days surrounding Christmas.

November 2: The first front of November is one of the milder weather systems of the month, but it does initiate the cloudiest time of the year. And the proximity of this front to the full moon on November 5th increases the possibility of snow in the North.

Since Easter comes during April's second week next year, all breeding of sheep and goats for that market should now be complete. As November deepens, be sure the water in the barn is warm to encourage ewes and does to drink as much as they want.

November 6: The November 6th front typically sharpens the divide between middle and late autumn, bringing much harsher conditions to livestock above the Mason-Dixon Line. As the percentage of cloud cover increases, winds gradually reach their winter levels. Full moon on the 5th increases the chances that this front will be severe.

As conditions permit, fertilize pastures where necessary for improved hardiness and stimulation of growth in early spring. Fertilize fields after harvest with organic matter, phosphorus and potassium to reduce soil compaction.

November 11: Sun often follows this front and may provide some of the best days in the first half of the month for harvest. The moon will be relatively weak as this system approaches, and no major storms are expected as the front passes through.

Since weather still remains somewhat benign to this point in the year, consider having your animals graze your pasture as late into the month in order to keep back perennial wildflowers and shrubs that grow back in "second spring."

November 16: This high-pressure system crosses the United States as the moon is still waning through its final quarter, and the weak moon should contribute to a relatively calm mid November.

Consider giving lower grade feed to livestock in these milder days of late autumn, gradually increasing nutrient value and quantity throughout the winter.

November 20: The fifth major high to cross the nation in November usually begins to complicate the holiday travel season, and the chances for deep snow increase above the Border States, especially since the moon turns new on the same day this front is expected to reach the Mississippi. Like all the fronts of late November and December, this one pushes the hard-freeze line well into the South.

November 24: Even though the moon lies in its first quarter, four days old as this front comes through, the chances are good that travel conditions for Thanksgiving will be complicated by rain, sleet or snow. And average high temperatures descend into the 30s or 40s throughout the weeks ahead in almost all areas of the nation. If you slaughter and butcher your own animals, avoid having the meat freeze. Along the Gulf coast, plant green manure cover crops between cold fronts as the moon waxes.

November 28: The last cold front of November is almost always strong, and it typically brings rain and gloom to the South and snow to the North. It also brings a strong chance of freezing temperatures from Georgia to Texas.

December 3: The full moon on December 4th should strengthen this front and contribute to more snow at higher elevations this first week of the year's last month. If possible, avoid not only invasive Procedures near this date but also transport of your animals.

December 8: Even though the moon will be waning as this front arrives, December 8th is a major pivot for severe weather throughout the central states along the 40th Parallel. A secondary front often increases the assault on your homestead between the 11th and the 13th.

December 15: This cold wave can bring below-zero temperatures as far south as the Border States, and double-digit below-zero temperatures enter the realm of possibility in over half the states of the union.

The full force of winter may bring livestock into the barn much more often. Avoid overcrowding in order to cut down on the possibility of pneumonia. And keep adequate ventilation in any closed area your animals use on a regular basis.

December 20: The December 20th weather system is often relatively mild (compared to systems of December 15th and 25th), but it has a good chance of producing snow all across the northern tier of states. Since the moon becomes new on the 20th this year, the chances rise for severe weather (strong winds and rain across the South--blizzard conditions across the North).

December 25: The Christmas cold front is one of the most consistent highs of the entire year, bearing precipitation five years in ten. It is typically followed by some of the brightest days of December. As the New Year's weather system approaches, however, the sky usually grows cloudy.

December 31: The last front of the calendar year is typically raw, windy, and wet. Although the days prior to its arrival are not particularly frigid, unsettled conditions may make your livestock, children and spouse restless and harder to handle. The weak moon will contribute to a relatively mild New Year's Eve. After this weather system passes through, however, the chill of middle winter grips the nation for the next six to 12 weeks.

A Phenological Guide to Early Winter

"When ... Then"

When all the sugar maple leaves come down, then most bird migrations for the year are complete.

When the last aster flower withers in the fields, then grazing season is usually over for livestock.

When goldenrod and thimbleweed are tufted like cotton, then look for witch hazels to come into bloom.

When the sugar beet harvest ends, then climbing bittersweet opens in the woods.

When poinsettias appear in the market, then the crab harvest is approaching along the Pacific coast.

When the Leonid Meteors fall near the middle of November, work gypsum into the soil where salt, used to melt winter's ice, may damage plantings.

When euonymus berries split and reveal their orange seeds, then beech leaves fall and winter wheat is often two to four inches tall in the fields.

When all your leaves are down, then fertilize trees, the garden and pasture. After that, remove tops from your everbearing raspberries.

When newly planted winter wheat turns the fields bright green, then look for autumn violets to bloom in lawns and parks.

When the last monarch butterfly of the year leaves your garden, then honeysuckle leaves are almost all down, and red honeysuckle berries are prominent throughout the understory.

When bluebirds disappear south, then sparrow hawks appear on the high wires, looking for mice in the fields.

When starlings flock together in the wood lots, then next year's skunk cabbage pushes up through the mud of the wetlands.

When you see cabbage butterflies in late fall and early winter, be sure to check your collards, kale and broccoli for green caterpillars.

When all but a few shriveled staghorns have fallen from the sumac, then the sandhill cranes leave their last northern feeding grounds.

When you see crows coming together in great flocks, then deer are mating in the woodlands.

When sunset reaches its earliest time of the year, the brittle leaves of the pear trees fall in the Midwest and ruby red grapefruit ripens in Florida.

When the last of the golden beeches, Osage and oaks come down, then the Christmas tree harvest has begun.

When spruces grow new needles, then look for your garlic shoots planted in early October to be about six inches high.

When camel crickets emerge in your kitchen or bathroom (those harmless crickets often live in your crawl space or basement), expect a cold wave and good luck. If a camel cricket comes to you on New Year's Eve, the good luck is even more likely to occur!

When you find antlers in the snow from white-tailed bucks, then you know that mango trees are flowering in southern Florida and that early spring is only 60 days away from St. Louis.

When solstice arrives, then mark the place on the horizon where the sun rises and sets; watch spring move toward you as dawn and sunset slowly travel south. Or measure the length of the shadow of a stick or tree (making a "gnomon" of it) and then watch it lengthen a little every day throughout the next six months.

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 when all creatures are typically most active. Second-best times occur when the moon is below the earth.

Date: Above; Below

Nov. 1-4: Evenings; Mornings

Nov. 5-11: Midnight to Dawn; Afternoons

Nov. 12-19: Mornings; Evenings

Nov. 20-27: Afternoons; Midnight to Dawn

Nov. 28-31: Evenings; Mornings

Dec. 1-3: Evenings; Mornings

Dec. 4-11: Midnight to Dawn; Afternoons

Dec. 12-19: Mornings; Evenings

Dec. 20-26: Afternoons; Midnight to Dawn

Dec. 27-31: Evenings; Mornings

Results of the September-October Sckrambler Sweepstakes

A total of 78 readers responded to the last Sckrambler (too many this time to list by name). Prizes were promised to the 3rd, the 10th, the 15th and the 25th person to return correct Sckrambler solutions (and the first person to tell Poor Will about his typos) by my deadline of August 31. Those readers are as follows: The 3rd person was Maxine Broom of Sand Springs, OK; the 10th person was Harlan Holland of Mayfield, KY; the 15th person was Helen Saville from West Valley, NY; the 25th person was Ruby Woods from Dreyden, VA. The first person to point out the typo was James Metzger of Wilmington, DE. He gets the typo prize.

Answers to the Autumn Sckrambler
















Now for a Winter Sckrambler

Each of the following words has something to do with winter in nature. You may find hints in the "When--Then" section above. And if you are the 5th, the 25th, the 75th or the 100th person to return your correct Sckrambler solutions by my deadline of October 31, you will win $5.00. There should be no typos in this puzzle, and no typo prize will be awarded. Send your entries by regular mail (no e-mails, please) to Poor Will at P.O. Box 431, Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387.


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Article Details
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Author:Felker, W.L.
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Nov 1, 2006
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