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Poor Will's countryside Almanack for early spring 2008.

The faint fresh flame of the young year flushes From leaf to flower and flower to fruit ...

--Algernon Charles Swinburne

Astronomical data for March The Phases of the Mourning Dove Moon and the Robin Chorus Moon

By the middle of March, the predawn mating conversations begin for the great robin flocks that have moved up from the South. Overwhelming all the other spring and summer bird songs before sunrise, the robins continue their morning calls through the middle of July.

7th: The Mourning Dove Moon becomes the new Robin Chorus Moon at 12:14 p.m.

14th: The moon enters its second quarter at 5:46 a.m.

21st: The moon is full at 1:40 p.m.

29th: The moon enters its last quarter at 4:47 p.m.

The Sun's Progress

Even though the day lengthens at different rates at different locations, equinox brings equal day and night at exactly 12:48 a.m. March 20th in the whole country. Daylight Savings Time begins at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 9th.

The Planets

Venus enters Aquarius and lies deep along the eastern horizon before sunrise. Mars shifts back into Gemini, visible almost overhead after dark. Saturn is a little to the east of Mars in Leo. Jupiter still inhabits Sagittarius, preceding Venus before dawn in the southeast and moving more and more along the southern horizon as spring advances.

The Stars

The early mornings of March foretell the evenings of July. The Great Square is coming up in the east. Cygnus, Aquila and Lyra form the Summer Triangle in the middle of the Milky Way. The Corona Borealis of spring has moved into the west. Scorpius and Libra dominate the southern tree line.

The Shooting Stars

The Delta Leonid meteors fall after midnight throughout the first week of this month. Look for them in Leo in the middle of the sky.

Astronomical data for April The Phases of the Robin Chorus Moon and the Carpenter Bee Moon

The robin chorus swells throughout April, accompanying all of the major bird migrations of middle spring. And as temperatures warm more and more often to the 60s and 70s, the Season of the Bees, which lasts into the warmest days of October and November, brings honeybees, hornets, wasps, and bumblebees out to the new flowers. It also brings the carpenter bees, which look very much like bumble bees, to drill holes and make nests in wooden siding and trim.

5th: The Robin Chorus Moon becomes the new Carpenter Bee Moon at 10:55 p.m.

12th: The moon enters its second quarter at 1:32 p.m.

20th: The moon is full at 5:25 a.m.

28th: The moon enters its final quarter at 9:12 a.m.

The Planets

Venus moves into Pisces this month, keeping its position as spring's morning star. Mars stays in Gemini, visible throughout the evening in the far west. Saturn will be in Leo, following Cancer until an hour or so after midnight. As Saturn disappears, Jupiter moves with Sagittarius across the southern horizon.

The Stars

In the evening, the Milky Way fills the western horizon as Orion sets just behind the sun. Now the stars of the heavens are in their prime spring planting positions, Castor and Pollux to the west, Leo with its bright Regulus directly overhead, and Arcturus dominating the east.

The Shooting Stars

The Lyrid Meteors are active after midnight between Cygnus and Hercules during the second and third week of April. These shooting stars often appear at the rate of 15 to 25 per hour.

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: Woodcocks fly to the Ohio Valley. Cardinals sing at about 6:30 every morning. Buzzards return to northern states between today and the 25th. Onions seeds and sets, potatoes, radishes, beets, carrots and turnips can be sown directly in the ground anytime between now and new moon on the 7th. Put in spring wheat when conditions permit. All bedding plants should be started in their flats. Only eleven weeks remain before the most delicate flowers and vegetables can be planted outside in all but the northernmost states. Four weeks until most hardy plants can be set out.

2nd: Complete the spraying of fruit trees between now and new moon day. Spray with dormant oil when the temperature is expected to stay above 40 for 24 hours. Do late pruning on colder afternoons. Spread fertilizer after testing the soil. The period of March through May is Spring Forest Fire Hazard Season in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

3rd: In an average year, the cold front that arrives around today is often relatively gentle, prolonging the opportunities for tapping trees and doing other outdoor work. Put in oats or ryegrass for quick vegetative cover. This is also time to seed and fertilize the lawn. Worms cross sidewalks and parking lots in the rain, a sign that the ground has thawed well above 40 degrees. Walleye, sauger, saugeye, muskie, bass and crappie start spring feeding.

4th: Graft and repot houseplants. Dig fence post holes while the ground is soft and wet. Sales of lambs and kids for the Easter Market begin near this date (see the entry below for March 23).

5th: Precipitation and wind typically mark the high-pressure system that usually arrives on or about the 5th. The last or second-last major snowstorm of the first half of the year sometimes strikes the Middle Atlantic region. On the other hand, wild violet leaves start to grow as the day's length approaches eleven and a half hours. Woodchucks are digging up the hillsides, and ducks and geese are scouting for nesting sites. Red maples flower. Chipmunks are out. The rivers are high, and carp mate in the shallows.

6th: Winter juncos depart. Horse-radish leaves are usually an inch long by today. Male red-winged black-birds (that arrived about two weeks ago) sing in the swamps as females join them in their nesting areas.

7th: The Robin Chorus Moon, new today, not only brings robins into song across most of the nation, it offers some of the very best seed starting of the entire year for flowers and for vegetables that will produce their fruit above the ground. Colts-foot is budding in the mountains of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Azaleas are blooming all across the Deep South. In the Mid-Atlantic region, celandine has sprouted. Buds lengthen and brighten on multiflora roses, honeysuckles, mock orange, and lilac. Forsythia blooms in Memphis. The first bluebells press through the mulch in the Appalachians. Some bleeding hearts come along, too.

8th: Warm-weather crops like tomatoes should be ready to set out on the first of May if you start them under lights this week. Try cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, squash, and all delicate herbs or flowers indoors before full moon. Seed tobacco and set out pansies, cabbages, kale, peas, collards and Brussels sprouts in the southern states as the moon waxes through this relatively favorable weather window.

9th: Beginning today, the first major storm window of March opens--and stays open through the 14th. Fittingly, the March 9th cold front is often the most dangerous and the coldest high-pressure system in the first two-thirds of March. After it passes, however, warmer temperatures ordinarily follow within two or three days. Mites, scale, and aphid eggs mature quickly if the temperature climbs above 60 degrees. The insects will be more easily controlled by dormant oil spray the closer they are to hatching.

10th: This is an early date for cherry trees to be in full bloom in Washington D.C., and it is also the average date for flower and garden shows throughout the East. In the Northeast, the coats of snowshoe hares begin changing from white to brown. Throughout the Midwest and North, crows are pairing off and selecting nesting sites. Along the 40th Parallel, lawn growth is usually perceptible now, three weeks before grass is ready to cut. Purple martins migrate. Peregrine falcons lay their eggs. Bald eagle chicks hatch. Ducks arrive in their most attractive mating plumage. White tundra swans usually land along Lake Erie.

11th: Honeysuckle leaves are opening, one of the first steps in the greening of the undergrowth. Parsnip, horseradish, dock, and dandelion roots are often dug at this time, when foliage just begins to emerge; root quality is usually at its best before the soil begins to warm. Flats of pansies are set out on milder days to harden them for late March planting.

12th: This is the week that the first mosquito bites and that the box elders and silver maples come into bloom in the lower Midwest. The tips of resurrection lilies have risen a few inches above the ground by this week of the year, and spring beauties are budding.

13th: The front that arrives near this date is typically less disruptive than the weather systems that surround it. Even in the North, you maybe be able to get your potatoes and peas planted on St. Patrick's Day, March 17th.

14th: Foliage of yarrow, lupine, phlox, columbine, coneflower, yarrow, sage, sweet pea, mallow, wild parsnip, goldenrod, snow-on-the mountain, New England aster, Queen Anne's lace, pyrethrum, bleeding heart, lamb's quarters and evening primrose is coming up.

15th: Midseason crocus plants bloom beside the earlier snow crocus. Cardinals now sing at 6:15 in the morning, a quarter of an hour earlier than they did two weeks ago.

16th: The male titmouse spirals in his mating frenzy as water striders breed in the ponds and rivers. Mock orange leafs out beside the new honeysuckle foliage. This is the latest date for planting tobacco seeds. Nine weeks until tender vegetables can be set out.

17th: In the wetlands, ragwort is budding when weeping willows glow yellow-green. In the woods, toad trillium pushes up through the leaves when turkeys start to gobble.

18th: Fertilize your pastures at least two weeks before you let your livestock graze. Keep an eye out for bloat, however, as you let your kids, calves and lambs enjoy the new greenery.

19th: Beginning today and lasting through the 30th, the second major March storm period increases the threat of tornadoes in the South and surprise blizzards in the North.

20th: Today is equinox, and the front closest to equinox historically brings freezing temperatures and clear skies to the northern half of the nation; full moon on the 21st will increase the odds for cold. In spite of the chill, the cornus mas shrubs are in full bloom--their golden flowers foreshadowing the forsythia that will blossom by the end of the month. Now begin your spring wildflower walks: snow trillium blossoms, and violet cress is budding. On this date in 2008, Muslims celebrate Muhammad's birthday (Mawlid al-Nabi); the sale of lambs and kids often increases before this feast day.

21st: In southern Illinois, clematis leaves emerge beside new growth of the dodder. Comfrey leaves reach two inches long. Motherwort swells into clumps, and henbit is in full bloom. Daffodils are blooming, and garlic mustard that will flower in the year 2009 sprouts. Magnolias are blossoming in Cincinnati. Sandhill cranes are migrating in the Rocky Mountains.

22nd: When new raspberry leaves are almost ready for tea, scillas color city lawns blue, and soft touch-me-nots have sprouted in the wetlands. Frosts could be over for the winter along the 40th Parallel, but an average year brings about twenty more to northern gardens.

23rd: Today is Easter Sunday this year: Save your newly weaned, milk-fed lambs and kids for the "Easter" market.

24th: The 24ths weather system is usually less powerful than the fronts that precede and follow it, and the waning moon this year may help to keep this high from causing damage. This is the time of year that early spring's first butterflies--the question marks, the mourning cloaks, the tortoise shells and the cabbage moths--typically emerge along the 40th parallel. When the butterflies appear, catfish are getting ready to feed, and yellow-bellied sapsuckers are mating.

25th: Violet cress flowers in the bottomlands. Chickweed and shepherd's purse open in the alleys. The first white star magnolia blossoms unravel. Transplant shade and fruit trees, shrubs, grape vines, strawberries, raspberries, and roses while the ground temperature remains in the 40s and 50s. Complete all field planting preparations.

26th: Leaves are starting to grow on skunk cabbage. Flickers are calling. Gold finches--their breasts turning yellow--are chasing each other through the leafing honeysuckles. Aconites, snowdrops, and snow crocus have passed their best. Termites are swarming. Garter snakes lie out sunning.

27th: Put in first field corn. Commercial potatoes, sugar beets, carrots and red beet planting is underway.

28th: Hepatica comes into early bloom. Bloodroot opens in parklands when forsythia flowers in town. Ragweed sprouts, and cardinals now sing at 5:45 in the morning, 45 minutes earlier than they sang four weeks ago.

Bluegrass billbugs may become active, laying eggs. Plan control now, then topdress your winter wheat.

29th: The last front of March arrives near this date and brings in middle spring, the four-week period during which almost all the field crops are planted and most of the lambs, kids and calves are moved to pasture.

30th: The first spring beauties, Dutchman's britches, toothwort, small -flowered bittercress, and twinleaf bloom in the woods just as the first May apple leaves push up from the ground. Virginia bluebells flower on the hillsides. Lungwort blooms in the city. Buckeye, apple and peach trees leaf out.

31st: In wilderness areas of the Southwest, late March brings the peak of wildflower season. Golden corydalis, desert phlox, desert chicory, spiderwort, popcorn flower, thistle poppy, fiddlenecks, deer vetch, desert anemone, scorpion flower, strawberry hedgehog cactus and pincushion cactus are in bloom. Throughout most of the nation, you can set out broccoli, cabbage, collards and kale.


1st: Barn swallows arrive in West Virginia as barred owls hatch and grape hyacinths bloom. In the Northeast, red-winged blackbirds and wood frogs finally begin to sing this week. Root crops should be started as the moon is waning: peanuts in the South, sugar beets in the North. Sow all your turnips, carrots and salsify, too.

2nd: The April 2nd high-pressure system initiates an eleven-day period of unsettled weather that brings an increased chance of tornadoes in the South and Midwest and spring thunderstorms to the North. This cold wave and the next are usually the last systems to threaten a light freeze in the South.

3rd: From North Carolina into Oklahoma, plum trees are full of flowers, and the pears start to open. Quince, box elders, plums, Norway maples, magnolias, crab apples, and pie cherries blossom, too. Loons return to the lakes of the Northeast after the ice melts. The field and garden day is increasing at the rate of two minutes per 24 hours. Japanese beetle grubs move to the surface of the ground to feed. Forsythia blooms above the pink and violet creeping phlox. New calves are out in the fields. Bluegills and rock bass look for worms.

4th: Buckeye leaves are coming out. Crocus, snowdrop and aconite seasons end except along the Canadian border. The seasons of wood hyacinths, scilla, daffodil, pushkinia, windflower and glory of the snow take their places. Early tulips are open. May apples are up and spreading their wings. Dig in new strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry plants. Dust roses as new leaves emerge. Early sweet corn, head lettuce and peas should be put in as soon as possible. Only six to seven weeks before the most tender plants can be placed outdoors.


5th: Carpenter bees bore holes in your siding as the Carpenter Bee Moon becomes new today. Best lunar conditions for field crop, frost-seeding, and other pasture planting occur as the moon waxes between April 5th and 18th. All across the country, oats and spring barley are being put into the ground. Spring wheat is being seeded in New England. Field corn planting is in full swing throughout the South and the central states, cotton planting along the Gulf.

6th: House wrens migrate as windflowers bloom. Haying begins throughout many states in April; transition your animals slowly from last year's old hay to this year's fresh hay. As the April 6th cold front approaches, the chances for frost briefly diminish, and possibility of highs in the 70s or 80s increases dramatically across the country. Precipitation, however, often puts a stop to field and garden planting. After the front passes east, the possibility of damage to flowering fruit trees increases in the Appalachians

7th: Hobblebush is leafing in the woods. Violets bloom in your yard. Nettles are about half a foot tall in the pastures. Velvety wild ginger leaves unfold on the hillsides. Tad poles swim in the pools and ponds. Daffodils, pushkinia, anemone, and hyacinths are at their brightest in the lawns and gardens of the central states.

8th: The rare grouse is drumming, and the wood thrush is back. Downy woodpeckers are mating. Baby groundhogs have come out of their dens. Asparagus is up in the garden; toad trillium blooms in the woods. The first strawberries are in flower.

9th: Crab apple and cherry blossom time begins in the Lower Midwest and usually lasts into the last week of the month. Columbines and bleeding hearts are bushy and nearly a foot tall. Rhubarb leaves are bigger than a big man's hand. The grass is long enough to cut. Redbud branches turn violet as their buds stretch and crack. Trillium grandiflorum are starting to flower. The first yellow trout lilies of the year come out. Star of Holland and the fritillaries bloom. Cowslip flowers appear below the ash and sugar maples in full bloom.

10th: Privets are filling out. Branches of the multiflora roses are almost completely covered with foliage. Dogwoods start to open. Early tulips are at their peak. Mounds begin to show on your lawn as moles wake up and hunt grubs and worms. When the moles start working, flea season begins for pets and livestock. And flies are infesting the barn!

11th: After today's high-pressure system crosses the country, several dry days often follow in its wake. This is the period during which you should try to complete all your middle-spring planting. Gardeners are picking strawberries in Alabama and Louisiana. Along the beaches of the Northeast, piping plovers are returning to establish their nests.

12th: Under the Carpenter Bee Moon's second quarter, deer are born and the foliage of wild geranium grows at least two inches high. Bullheads begin their spawning run. Trees are in full flower throughout the Central Plains, the Northeast, the Northwest and the Rocky Mountains. In the Southeast, all the grasses are coming into bloom. In the Great Lakes region, commercial cabbage transplanting is underway.

13th: Leaves appear on elm trees. The seasons of snow trillium, bloodroot and twinleaf, Dutchman's britches, violet cress, scilla, star of Holland, and pushkinia come to an end. Bleeding hearts have hearts. Redbuds are turning a deeper pink and purple. American toads are chanting, and hummingbird moths and bumblebees come out to sip the annual mass flowering of dandelions. Gnats become bothersome.

14th: Throughout the country's midsection, black and gray morel mushrooms come up at this time of the month, the same time that orchard grass is ready to harvest. When ticks and mosquitoes become troublesome, the morel season is about over. Today usually starts full apple, redbud and dogwood blossom week along the 40th parallel.

15th: Grape vines are leafing out. Five more weeks to frost free gardening. The juniper webworm emerges, and eastern tent caterpillars may begin to weave webs on flowering fruit trees. Grasshoppers are born in the woods and hedgerows. Locusts, mulberries, ash, tree of heaven, and ginkgoes get their foliage. The first daddy longlegs are hunting.

16th: The days prior to the arrival of this high-pressure ridge can be expected to carry rain or snow, and are often the wettest of all April days; after this front, however, a major increase in the average daily amount of sunlight occurs: a rise from early April's 50/50 chance for sun or clouds up to a brighter 70 percent chance for clear to partly cloudy conditions.

17th: By this time of the year, honeysuckles and spice bushes have developed enough to turn the undergrowth pale green, and color rises throughout the tall tree line.

18th: Between now and the first of May, most dandelions go to seed in the central states. In the East, pheasants lay their eggs, and bird migrations peak with the arrival of whip-poor-wills, red-headed woodpeckers, catbirds, cedar waxwings, yellow-throated vireos, meadow larks, indigo buntings, scarlet tanagers, Baltimore orioles, cowbirds, kingbirds, and more than a dozen varieties of warblers.


19th: In the Northwest, Kestrel hawks are nesting, and aspens flower. Wood ticks follow the receding snow, and grizzly bears come out of hibernation. In Vermont, trout fishing time begins. The crocuses are blooming in Minneapolis. Azaleas are open in Norfolk, rhododendrons in St. Louis. Dogwoods are at their best in Atlanta. New Orleans is all decked out like an Illinois June. Along the north Atlantic coast, mackerel move toward inshore waters.

20th: The Carpenter Bee Moon is full today, bringing a serious chance for frost to the Border States. After the cold, start soybean planting. Mosquitoes, however, may bite you in the garden. Flowering begins on lilacs, azaleas, raspberries and ragwort.

21st: After today's cold front moves to the Atlantic, chances for snow decline below ten percent in almost the entire country. However, the second major tornado period of April begins now- lasting in most years until the 27th. Today is also Cross-Quarter Day, the day on which the sun's position reaches its halfway point to solstice. This is the time the antlers of white-tailed deer begin to grow and all major garden weeds are sprouting. Snowball viburnum, Greek valerian, early meadow rue, rue anemone, and columbine start to flower. Ducklings and goslings are born, and warblers swarm north.

22nd: Aphids are appearing in the field and garden; lady bugs are hunting them. Just one month until every single tender plant can be placed outside. Winter wheat is typically four to eight inches high. Iris borers are hatching now; check your roots. Wild geraniums bloom. Bridal wreath spirea, late-season tulips and daffodils are blooming throughout the East. In Vermont, spring peepers peep and loons mate.

23"d: Weevils may be emerging in alfalfa. Watercress flowers are opening, excellent for salads and garnishing.

24th: Following this front, chances for frost virtually disappear in the South and become relatively insignificant throughout much of the North. Chances improve for field and garden planting after the April 24th cool front since two to three days of dry and sunny weather are the rule.

25th: Field corn planting is going on throughout the nation. The high leaf canopy is beginning to fill in, casting shade on the flower and vegetable garden. Scarlet tanagers appear in the woods; meadow parsnip, wood betony, honeysuckle, buckeye and red horse-chestnut flower.

26th: Late spring arrives as admiral butterflies hatch. Field grasses are long enough to ripple in the wind.

27th: The garlic mustard of May blooms when the first indigo bunting arrives and early season iris plants blossom. Thyme and horseradish are open in the herb garden. Common fleabane flowers in the alleys. Average high temperatures reach 70 along the Ohio River as cutworms and sod webworms work the cornfields. Baltimore Orioles begin to appear in the Midwest when Osage trees come into bloom and lily-of-the-valley flowers

28th: In advance of the first cold front of late spring, due near this date, highs in the 90s become possible as far north as Chicago, and the chances for a high in the 80s pass the 20 percent mark at lower elevations along the 40th Parallel. Trailing arbutus blooms in Maine as the Carpenter Bee Moon comes into its final quarter. During this fourth lunar quarter, destroy tent caterpillars as they hatch and plant all your remaining root crops.

29th: The first blue jay is born, and some orchard grass and rye are ready to harvest in an average year. Wild cherry trees bloom. Star of Bethlehem season begins in the garden, spring cress season in the woods.

30th: Tobacco plants are set out now. Complete your sweet corn planting, and be thinking about soybeans: soybean yield loss can be up to one bushel per acre per day for planting after the first week of May.

Sweet William, Korean lilac, catchweed, nodding trillium and larkspur are coming in.

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.

Dieters, of course, should look for increased temptation when the moon is overhead; relief will come as the moon is either rising or setting (its weakest daily positions). Fish and game may feed more, and animals (and children) may be slightly more troublesome with the moon above.

Date: Above; Below


1-7: Mornings; Evenings

8-14: Afternoons; Midnight to Dawn

15-21: Evenings; Mornings

22-29: Midnight to Dawn; Afternoons

30-April 4: Evenings; Mornings


5-11: Midnight to Dawn; Afternoons

12-19: Mornings; Evenings

20-28: Afternoons; Midnight to Dawn

29-30: Evenings; Mornings

Poor Will's Sckrambler

A total of 77 readers responded to the last Sckrambler puzzle. Prizes of $5 were promised to the 30% the 75th, the 110th and the 170th persons to return the correct Sckrambler solutions by my deadline of December 25th. The prizes go to the 30th respondent, Judy Lohmeyer of Gibson City, IL, and the 75th respondent, Susan Fischer from La Vergne, TN. Thanks to everyone who took part in the Sckrambler event. I was chastised by several readers for my typo, and I will try again to get you a perfect puzzle.

Answers to the last Sckrambler







LTYRAE (This was a typo.): TAYLOR







YELKINKCM (This was also a typo.): MCKINLEY





Now for a Vice Presidential Sckrambler

Vice presidents of the United States are often the forgotten people of politics. On the other hand, many became famous presidents. Find a list of former vice presidents and see how you do on this Sckrambler.

Prizes will be awarded to the 10th, the 55% the 90th and the 120th person who returns the correct answers to all of the sckrambled words. The 120th winner will also receive an Honorary Doctorate of Letters (Sckrambled) from Poor Will's Almanack. There should be no typos in this puzzle, and no typo prize will be awarded. Send your entries by regular mail--postcards preferred--(but no e-mails, please) to Poor Will, PO Box 431, Yellow Springs, OH 45387 by February 22nd.





















Copyright 2008--W. L. Felker
COPYRIGHT 2008 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Felker, W.L.
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2008
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